The Pokemon Craze: To GO or Not To Go?

The latest online gaming trend gets students out and about

-By, Susy Liu

    At 11pm on July 16th, 2016, a band of New York millennials stampeded Central Park. On August 23, 2016, thousands of people charged through the streets of Taipei. No, it was not lettuce wrap day—these people, with their eyes glued to their phones, ran out of their cars, stopping traffic in search of rare Pokemon.

    Although the Pokemon Go fever has cooled a bit since its launch on July 6th, 2016, the worldwide phenomenon broke Apple’s App Store download records and revolutionized game play for the general public. By using GPS location services and “augmented reality” to superimpose the Pokemon world over the real world, the game grants individuals an unprecedented immersive experience in training, trading, and battling Pokemon. The game, which draws strength from the Pokemon presence in many a childhood, was an immediate success. But the headlines in the months following the game’s release were always a source of skepticism that caused me to question the reach of the entertainment industry: “Car crash result of driver playing game,” “Holocaust Museum asks visitors to refrain from playing game,” “Men fall off cliff during Pokemon Go walk,” “Man quits job to hunt Pokemon full time,” etc ( By merging a virtual world with reality, the game seemingly brings society one step closer to the often dramatized tyranny of technology.

    Considering the multiple deaths and the new Pokemon trainer “occupations” that have resulted from the game, Pokemon Go has visibly changed our lifestyles and has, in some cases, caused individuals to value the virtual world over their own lives. The game threatens not only the individual but also the places where the individual visits. Peaceful neighborhoods and solemn museums have been overrun by Pokemon trainers who do not respect the atmosphere of their physical environment. One unfortunate Massachusetts resident saw a number of uninvited visitors after his house was tagged (mistakenly) as a Pokemon Gym. Although Pokemon Go, with its educational historical markers, may have been intended to encourage homebodies to go outside and learn about their neighborhoods, the blind determination to find Pokemon seems to have overwhelmed any genuine appreciation of the real world.

More objectively, Pokemon Go poses a public safety hazard by distracting people from tasks at hand such as walking or driving and by allowing for more creative crime. Criminals have used “lures,” game tactics that increase Pokemon spawn rates, to draw unsuspecting players towards them. The game has even invaded the workspace. While I interned at Massachusetts General Hospital, numerous emails were sent to remind workers that the game was not only highly distractive but also prohibited because its location services could violate patient privacy. Susanna M. ’17 commented, “It’s been ridiculous. I’ve seen people constantly on their phones playing the game. There was even a kid who announced a Pokemon sighting in church.”

However, after reading about Nick Johnson, the first person to “catch em all,” I questioned my pessimistic stance. Johnson made friends and traveled the world through Pokemon Go. Although social media platforms are not genuinely social, Pokemon Go could be a rewarding social and cultural experience because the game requires interactions with the real world. Sabine T. ’17, who is an avid Pokemon Go player, believes that “Pokemon Go helps people get more active while enjoying a classic game.” She added, “I know it has helped people who have had trouble socializing or who have had social anxiety issues before, so it’s great. It is a bit scary, hearing about people finding corpses and such, but I think the positive aspects outweigh the negatives. People should be cautious, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy the game.”

Whether you play Pokemon Go or not, the game undoubtedly provokes conversation about the line between the virtual and real worlds and illustrates a longstanding, fundamental controversy surrounding the use of technology; while technological advances are intended for our advantage, misuse of technology, especially in entertainment, has unintentional mental and emotional consequences. As we are surrounded by an increasing amount of technology in the 21st century, we should be cautious with our devices and maintain control over reality. Pokemon Go can be constructive in healthy doses, but don’t get carried away in the quest to

“catch ‘em all”!

    The next time you put off writing your English essay or get a day off, think twice about gluing yourself to a screen for 24 hours. Maybe get a lettuce wrap instead.