Does Pokémon GO Need to Go?

Journey to the Indigo League Proves Treacherous

Nintendo and Niantic Labs’ new augmented reality (AR) mobile game released for Android and iOS this Tuesday and has since become the hot topic on the internet. Unfortunately, not all talk is good.

Pokémon GO is free-to-play, but supports microtransactions. The mobile game lets players catch, battle, train and trade Pokémon. (Trading was not yet implemented at time of writing.) Pokémon, the wildly popular Japanese game of collecting Pocket Monsters, appear in the real world through AR using either static backgrounds or live video. There is also an optional wearable accessory called the Pokémon GO Plus, which connects via Bluetooth and lights up and vibrates when a Pokémon is near. Players create an avatar, and have to walk around the real world to move the avatar in-game. If you would like more information, check Pokémon GO’s Wikipedia page or official site.

First of all, many would-be players are experiencing issues starting the game in the first place, including:
  • Login authentication error
  • Servers experiencing issues
  • Pokémon Trainer Club registration issues
  • Frozen screens on unsupported devices
  • Error messages when trying to launch the camera

During more than ten attempts to play since Thursday, I experienced the “GPS unavailable” and “servers down” problems. A web search will bring up Pokémon GO’s known issues guide, but it should be noted that Niantic Labs “are working on a solution” for distorted audio and heavy battery use.

“Pokémon GO is not yet available in all countries, and hackers are taking advantage of that fact.”

Pokémon GO is not yet available in all countries, and hackers are taking advantage of that fact. Malicious APK files can be found online containing a remote access tool called DroidJack, which grants the hacker full access to users’ devices. This is primarily a concern in countries outside the initial release in certain areas of the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Anyone who downloads the app from the Google Play or iOS stores will not have to worry about malicious activity.

Now let’s get to the real problem with Pokémon GO… people. Pokémon GO tries to place Pokémon in locations that make sense. Want a Water Pokémon? Try Going to the beach. However, there are some more interesting Pokémon appearances.

The game also places Pokémon and items near landmarks, such as a police station in Denver, which states they do not need to enter the station to catch a Sandshrew, and kindly asks trainers to look both ways before crossing the street.

"Policemen tell trainers not to enter their precinct and to look both ways before crossing the street.”

Pokémon GO encourages discovery, such as when a Wyoming teen found a dead body while playing. Although the event is obviously not the developer’s fault, the article made the rounds as good clickbait.

In one case, a man’s house was made into a gym. Pokémon GO uses maps to find points of interest, and might turn them into a gym for players to gather and challenge. The map in question was over 40 years old, and the church in which he lives is no longer a church. That has not stopped him from becoming the unfortunate owner of a Pokémon gym, with a steady group of people dropping by uninvited.

It is more than likely that these types of frustrations may go to court sometime soon. Trespassing aside, Pokémon GO may be responsible for a small drop in the US obesity rate. At least until people get creative. Pokémon GO may also lead to a sharp rise in distracted driving, as evidenced from tweets like this one.

“It’s only a matter of time until we have our first death related to Pokémon GO.”

The game itself is fine, and it serves its intended purpose of getting people out of the house, but the danger that the potential distraction presents is worrisome. It’s only a matter of time until we have our first death related to Pokémon GO. Anyone who’d like to (safely) give Pokémon GO a shot can download it from Google Play or from the iOS App Store.