You cannot swing a virtual cat on the 'net without hitting a news item about the appearance of Pokémons everywhere. The little Nintendo critters from the 1990s are back amongst us, visible only to those who have downloaded the Pokémon Go app on their smartphones.
The app allows users to view their surroundings but inserts pocket monsters where it sees fit. Players can ambulate through their surroundings spotting and collecting them, or something like that.
Stories about the app abound. Here are a few:
- Betsy Bray of UWaterloo's own Games Institute has caught many a Drowzee around town. The app makes getting around more fun but also prompts users to interact with their environment more and interact with strangers also playing the game. (By walking into them?)
- Some parents claim that the app has got their kids off the couch and out and about. While pleased, parents face a new dilemma: Does ambulatory use of the app count as screen time?
- Adults are also (re)discovering their cities, and some new ones, while wandering about them in pursuit of critters. Encounter historic monuments you may not have noticed before they were occupied by pikachus.
- Perhaps some places should be off limits, though. The New York Times suggests that they should avoid Auschwitz or the Holocaust Memorial. A rattata atop a memorial marker at the former death camp strikes its caretakers as inappropriate.
- Security experts say that Pokémon may get more access to your smartphone than you might like. Users may inadvertently be giving the game's developer, Niantic, access to their email accounts, Google Drive documents, Maps history, Google Photos, and a bunch more things. So, you could soon be doxed by a cartoon character!
- Nintendo is laughing all the way to the bank. Its stock has jumped 25%, adding $9 billion to its value, as a result of the game's release.
- Several oddities have arisen in the course of Pokémon Go play. For example, robbers in O'Fallon, Mo., lured players to a remote location and robbed them at gunpoint. The game misidentified a private residence as a "gym"—a place for training and battles—which has led to numerous players invading the owner's property.
I think I may have had a similar experience. As students in my evening class yesterday engaged in an exercise in small groups, another student entered the room, staring intently at his phone. He walked 3/4 of the way around the room, seemingly oblivious to our activities. Then he stopped, stabbed at his phone with his forefinger several times, and then walked out. That's a first for me!
I wouldn't call it an invasion but I would rather my students, or interlopers, did not hunt for Pokémon's during my classes. Unless they have paid tuition, of course.
I leave the rest to Stephen Colbert.