Au­thor­i­ties world­wide worry about Poke­mon Go

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ISHAAN THA­ROOR

Your hum­ble blog­ger may be one of the bit­ter-en­ders who re­fuses to go hunt a Ja­panese car­toon mon­ster.

Other­wise, the phe­nom­e­non of Poke­mon Go — which, for those liv­ing un­der a rock that may also be a Poke-stop, in­volves an aug­mented re­al­ity app that al­lows mil­len­ni­als to in­habit the some­what ni­hilis­tic game of their child­hood — seems to have be­come a world­wide craze, eclips­ing Twit­ter, Tin­der and other ubiq­ui­tous so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

But par­al­lel to the near-global ob­ses­sion have been the con­cerns of, well, grown-ups around the world wor­ried about the app’s ef­fects. These in­clude se­cu­rity flaws posed by the app it­self, as well as myr­iad cases of rob­bers and other as­sailants ex­ploit­ing the game’s me­chan­ics to lure un­sus­pect­ing vic­tims.

Then, there’s the sim­ple is­sue of pro­pri­ety. In Wash­ing­ton, the Holo­caust Mu­seum and Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery have been com­pelled to put out stern no­tices, re­quest­ing visi­tors to re­frain from chas­ing around Poke­mon while on the premises.

“Play­ing the game is not appropriate in the mu­seum, which is a memo­rial to the vic­tims of Nazism,” said An­drew Hollinger, the mu­seum’s communications di­rec­tor. “We are try­ing to find out if we can get the mu­seum ex­cluded from the game.”

The con­ster­na­tion in the United States is mir­rored else­where. Po­lice in the Bel­gian port city of An­twerp, for ex­am­ple, is­sued a warn­ing about the po­ten­tial dan­gers of pedes­tri­ans play­ing the game.

“Play­ers will only have eyes for their screen, and so cap­ti­vated will they be by the game that they may no longer be pay­ing at­ten­tion to the traf­fic,” the po­lice said. They also warned of “crim­i­nals us­ing the game as a means to hunt down vic­tims and steal from them.”

In some corners of the Mus­lim world, the re­ac­tion to the game took on a par­tic­u­lar moral va­lence. Ear­lier this week, a Wash­ing­ton Post col­league Sudarsan Raghavan blogged about the 2001 fatwa against the orig­i­nal Poke­mon game, is­sued by an Egyp­tian cleric, who said the game taught chil­dren gam­bling through the use of “Ma­sonic and Zion­ist sym­bols.”

But now, the deputy chief of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the most im­por­tant schol­arly in­sti­tu­tion of Sunni Is­lam, has de­clared Poke­mon Go to be as il­licit as al­co­hol.

“This game makes peo­ple look like drunk­ards in the streets and on the roads while their eyes are glued to the mo­bile screens lead­ing them to the lo­ca­tion of the imag­i­nary Poke­mon in the hope of catch­ing it,” said Ab­bas Shouman, as quoted by Gulf News.

He went on: “Will peo­ple ne­glect their work and earn­ing their liv­ing and de­vote them­selves in­stead to hunt­ing for Poke­mon?”

Mean­while, Mehmet Bayrak­tu­tar, the head of Tur­key’s union of imams, grum­bled about Poke­mon Go en­thu­si­asts ven­tur­ing to mosques and other sa­cred sites to find their Poke­mon.

“This un­der­mines the promi­nence and sig­nif­i­cance of mosques, which are the most beau­ti­ful wor­ship places in Is­lam,” he said, ac­cord­ing to Hur­riyet Daily News, and added: “I want it to be banned in Tur­key.”

The Is­tan­bul-based daily also cites a more be­nign no­tice from Tur­key’s Health Min­istry, which ad­vised Poke­mon Go play­ers to not use the app in the mid­dle of the day: “We don’t rec­om­mend search­ing for Poke­mon be­tween 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays hit at a di­rect an­gle. We also rec­om­mend you keep your eyes on the road and not on the screen of your phone, es­pe­cially when cross­ing the street.”

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary warned its sol­diers not to use the app, a sieve of in­for­ma­tion, on army bases.

Per­haps the most ve­he­ment re­sponse to Poke­mon Go came from Rus­sia, where the game has yet to be of­fi­cially re­leased. An­drei Polyakov, a Cos­sack leader in St. Peters­burg, the coun­try’s sec­ond-big­gest city, said he and his com­rades would seek a govern­ment ban of the game.

“Peo­ple should be dragged out of this vir­tual world, it reeks of Satanism,” he told lo­cal ra­dio, ac­cord­ing to Tass news agency. “There are so many in­ter­est­ing things to do and peo­ple are just wast­ing their lives.”

Dmitri Peskov, a se­nior spokesper­son for the Rus­sian govern­ment, warned Poke­mon Go play­ers from seek­ing their quarry in Moscow’s most well-known site.

“Poke­mons are no rea­son to visit the cul­tural trea­sury of the world that is the Krem­lin, which un­prece­dent­edly re­mains open, de­spite be­ing the res­i­dence of the Rus­sian pres­i­dent,” Peskov said.

That sen­ti­ment is not shared by some in South Korea, where the app can’t func­tion par­tic­u­larly well be­cause the govern­ment con­strains the use of Google Maps.

Nev­er­the­less, diehard fans have man­aged to find a few blind spots where they can man­age to play the game, par­tic­u­larly in one town perched in the coun­try’s north­east.

The city of Sok­cho has even billed it­self as “the only ‘Poke­mon Go’ holy land on the penin­sula.”


Play­ers in the United States had eyes for noth­ing but their phones.

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