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July 18, 2019

Pokemon GO: Entertainment or Nuisance?

Pokémon_Go_-_screenshot_of_mapPokemon GO craze took Yangon by storm. A few days ago there were photos and video clips on the social media of males and females, both young and middle-aged people walking around, without paying attention to other pedestrians, with smart phones in their palms. They were trying to catch the virtual creatures from a make-believe world, created by computer simulations, in the real-world. Every player seemed to be oblivious to the surroundings, which in fact is the real-world, where real accidents can happen any moment.
So what is Pokemon GO? According to the Wikipedia, it is a free-to-play, location-based augmented game developed by Niantic, Inc., of USA for iOS and Android devices. It was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokemon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.The game became a global phenomenon and one of the most used mobile applications instantly. In the first month of its launching, in July 2016, over 100 millions had downloaded the game application worldwide. The companies, which hold shares in it are already making lucrative business out of it and I am sure our local Internet servers too are definitely going to see significant surges in their revenues.
As the main objective of my article is to point out the impact of Pokemon GO on the players, I will not be going into detail, describing the technical aspects, and would shift my attentions to discuss its pros and cons. On the advantage side, some think the game is very enjoyable and may be the most entertaining Internet game invented so far. On the downside, it is very addictive. Of course most of the Internet games are addictive; so addictive that many youngsters’ dreams were crushed.
To cite one such example, about ten years ago I met a young man in his twenties. I came to learn that he dropped out of the Medical Institute from the final year. He is from a well-to-do family and financial problem was not the cause of his dropping out, but he couldn’t pass his examination within the limited number of times allowed to sit for it. He told me, he passed his examinations every year until he got addicted to the computer games in his final year. He spent most of his time at the computer game shop close to his Institute. He missed his classes very often, playing the computer games. There may be many more like him.
So just imagine what could happen to the youths of today with far more advanced and interesting online games readily available on the Internet at present. Before the Pokemon GO, the Candy Crush game was very popular. Even some elderly persons were addicted. Judging from the intensity of the Pokemon GO craze that hit Yangon in the last few days, it was unprecedented. Thus it is needless to say that the consequences of this game would be far more damaging, given the fact that with the better accessibilities to the Internet and the mobile devices, more people would become addicted.
Though the game is supposed to be free, the expenses for the players could shoot sky high. Recently there was the news from Rio, where the Olympics games are underway, of a Japanese gymnast who was surprised that his phone bills hit $5000 in a day. Though the game application and playing it may be for free, the phone bills and the data usage costs would soar, especially if played on a roaming mobile phone. In the case of the young Japanese athlete, I presumed he had not noticed that his phone was on roaming mode.
In another such case, the phone bill of a street food vendor in a small district town in Thailand, listed over a hundred thousand Bhats in one month. As the usual average never exceed two thousand, the woman complained to the telephone company. The company checked and found that the majority of the airtime was used in playing online games. When they investigated, they found out that her only son, who is in his preteens, confessed he took his mother’s phone without her knowledge to play online games. The telephone company generously exempted the bill for that month, for once, after warning that there wouldn’t be a second time.
Apart from the financial effects that could cost the player a fortune in phone bills, accidents are bound to happen. During the first month of its introduction, starting in July 2016, accidents are starting to happen in Thailand resulting in deaths and injuries. If similar scenes like the one in front of the City Hall should continue during rush hours, accidents would happen sooner or later. In some countries there are also incidents of trespassing and causing of annoyances to the public, where the residents threw water balloons at the players entering their neighbourhoods. It is becoming an intolerable nuisance even in its infancy.
Thus the young players should use their discretions so as not get caught in a situation like that of the medical student mentioned above and avoid being in heavy debts due to exorbitant phone bills and last but not least, not to become a victim of an accident. I would also like to caution the parents of the teenagers and some pre-teens, who are starting to be attracted to the game, to have a tight discipline on them if they love them. I had seen some parents and even grand parents who are very pleased and even boasting about their off-springs playing that game. They shouldn’t indulge themselves in false-pride. In conclusion, I would like to suggest to the authorities to impose some sort of restrictions at places of worship like the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, office complexes, museums, hospitals, schools, important landmarks, cemeteries and other places that need security or privacy.


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