Pokemon Go

Real life comes before game world of Pokemon Go

While the mobile game has benefits such as exercise and social interaction, players should still be mindful of the risks.

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2016, 12:23am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2016, 12:23am

Digital games have helped create a society that is inactive and tending towards obesity. But the latest gaming world phenomenon, Pokemon Go, gets players out of their seats and exploring their city. That’s obviously good, but as the fever catches in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, there are also dangers. They range from being too engrossed to pay attention to pedestrians and oncoming traffic to being lured to isolated locations by people with ill intent.

The game has been an instant hit wherever its developer, Nintendo, has released it. A free mobile app, it follows the basic premise of the original 1990s console game and anime series, in which adventurers travel the world seeking “pocket monsters” to train and fight each other. Using the smartphone camera, GPS and a modified version of Google maps, players move around the streets of the real world with their in-game character trying to control territory and capture Pokemons that appear on their screens. Its success lies in clever use of existing technology and tapping a built-in audience with fond memories of the TV show and computer and card games.

The Hong Kong gamers desperate to start playing Nintendo’s Pokemon Go

Screen-based games are usually solitary and lethargic affairs, but Pokemon Go gets players outdoors exploring places they may not typically venture to. Bonuses are given for the number of steps taken, so a by-product is exercise. There is social interaction when gamers notice one another and as they congregate in designated locations. These are good reasons to welcome the craze, which is breaking all manner of records.

But players also have to be mindful of the risks. Being too engrossed with the search for a rare Pokemon can lead to accidents. Danger can lurk in out-of-the-way places and going uninvited into some buildings or locations can lead to a warning or even trouble. There is undeniable fun in looking through a mobile phone camera and seeing a Pokemon sitting on top of a car, but the priority has to be first remembering that when walking the streets, the real world comes before the gaming one.