Television & Film

WTF is Pokémon GO and Why Is it Cluttering Up Social Media?

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[Header image courtesy Wikipedia]

So, unless you’ve been living in a hole in the ground for the past couple of days, your social media has been filled with notices like this:

Caption of Stephanie's post, used with permission
Caption of Stephanie’s post, used with permission

(Which, if you have been living in a hole in the ground, welcome back!)

The new ‘it’ thing is now, apparently, a flashback to the ’90s, and Pokémon is now back on people’s radars. But if you aren’t one of the estimated 7.5 million people who downloaded it (in the US alone!) since it was released on July 6, you might be wondering what the heck it’s all about.

Pokémon GO is a game developed by Niantic for your smart phone that uses augmented reality for you to move around and catch Pokémon. As explained in this guide from IGN, the game encourages you to search real world locations by using the GPS on your phone. It is free to download, but you have to have a pretty new smartphone in order to do anything decent, and it is a hellish drain on your battery either way.

Now, as with any newish technology (augmented reality has been around a few years — this is just the first time most of the masses have encountered the idea), there have been some stumbles. You may have read the Washington Post article about how there are subreddits about people supposedly being injured while playing it (as they were paying too much attention to their phones), or the Boing Boing article about a player supposedly being shot while playing (and the article brings up the unfortunate realization that this game is not exactly ‘safe’ for people of color in these troubled times), or the USA Today article about how it’s supposedly being used to commit robberies.

On the opposite end, I’ve seen posts talking about how people are getting outside more and talking with their neighbors, losing weight by walking more, and people of all ages from 8 to 70 becoming involved and interacting with others thanks to the game. There’s also been stories of how it’s been helping with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

pokemon-go-angie-screencap
“There’s a snake in my … well, there’s a snake.” [Screenshot from me playing]
You’ll notice a lot of ‘supposedly’s in there — that’s because in all cases, it’s mostly hearsay and as with any breaking news, it’s best to take these kinds of stories with the proverbial grain of salt.

However, what you DO want to take seriously is the articles that are talking about the privacy settings you agree to when playing. Buzzfeed lays it out pretty well here. As Boing Boing indicates in their article (that also references Buzzfeed’s article), it’s not too much more than what any of your other social media or apps are already asking of you. So it’s really up to you as to how much access you want to give them, and whether you want to create a blank Google account to sign up to join (you need to register using a GMail) so they don’t have access to any actual information.

As with any new trend, check it out keeping everything in mind. l downloaded it myself yesterday to see what all the fuss is about. I admit — having never been a huge fan of anything Pokémon, I’m finding it delightfully addictive, right up there with Neko Atsume. It’s gamification done right, and encouraging people to go out and interact with others on a worldwide scale.

As for the plethora of posts about it on social media? I find it a refreshing breath of air compared to what my feed has been like over the past couple of weeks, and a reminder that there are things we can still love and enjoy about the world — virtual or otherwise. (And hey – it seems to be doing Nintendo a world of good.)

For more information about Pokémon GO, visit their official website.

You can see more of Angie’s work (and her social media connections) over at her website.

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Angie Fiedler Sutton

Angie Fiedler Sutton is a writer, photographer, and all-round fangirl geek. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and primarily covers geek culture, entertainment, and the performing arts. She's been published in Den of Geek, Stage Directions, LA Weekly, The Mary Sue, and others. You can see more of her work (and her social media connections) over at her website angiefsutton.com.

2 thoughts on “WTF is Pokémon GO and Why Is it Cluttering Up Social Media?

  • The security risks are slightly exaggerated. It doesn’t retrieve any more data than any other app.

    Reply

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