Is Pokémon Go Doing More Harm Than Good?

Sure, Pokémon Go isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you have an insufficient data allowance, battery life, or happen to have a Windows Phone. However, those who have become engrossed in this world-beating AR experiment are finding it very hard to detach themselves and simply walk away. Many of these people, as you’ll notice in your social media timeline and news feeds, are friends and family that don’t normally identify as gamers.

In truth, bar the occasional poorly-design gym battle, there isn’t much of a game there in the first place, but watching the world react to Pokémon Go over the past few weeks has been a surprising, largely positive experience. As someone who gets around on foot quite a bit, even in a quiet town such as mine, it’s strangely warming to see Pokéstops being frequented by all kinds of different folk, some of whom I know personally.

Aside from that intriguing social aspect, Pokémon Go is also helping people to get into shape, believe it or not. While the game doesn’t necessitate visits to actual real-life gyms, many players will have found themselves “going for a walk”, as if the option never existed before Pokémon Go. Although I’m no way near as out of shape as I used to be, the game has certainly influenced how often I leave the house, whether on foot or cycling.

It’s not all rainbows and lollipops, however. In the few weeks that it’s been available, Pokémon Go has spawned all kinds of negative and sometimes humorous headlines, as local and regional newsrooms look to cash in on the trend. Stories of grim discoveries and muggings sit next to those of accidents caused by people staring at their phone screens when they should be looking elsewhere – there’s even the news story of a pedestrian playing Pokémon Go and nearly getting run over… by a driver recklessly playing Pokémon Go in the car. The game has also lured out a number of idiots, such as the person who dialled the emergency services after someone stole their Pokemon.

Although not quite as serious as being attacked or causing harm through negligence, there exist other shady practices within Niantic’s augmented reality, which go well beyond opportunistic taxi firms. Since day one sites like eBay, Gumtree, and various Facebook groups have hosted ads for Pokémon Go services. For real money, some users (often based in London and other large cities) will accept payments to catch Pokémon in their area using your account details.

This kind of “service” is nothing new in video games. MMOs have long had the same problem of paid account boosting and gold farming. For console gamers, you’ll also find many scrupulous eBayers offering digital items for certain games as well as trophy/achievement unlocking services. It’s all very shady and Pokémon Go manages to take it a step further.

Unlike boosting or trophy hunting, capturing Pokémon requires far less time or skill. With tools like Pokévision showing people when and where certain creatures spawn, this means that any Tom, Dick, and Harry can procure monsters for those desperate enough to hand over their email address and password. And that, might we add, is for those individuals who actually carry out the task they’ve been paid for.

It’s impossible to get an accurate reading on such statistics, but it’s easy to imagine that a sizeable minority of players have already fallen prey to opportunistic scammers. The worry here is that many victims will have been those of a much younger age, mostly children.

The black market and other bad press surrounding Pokémon Go does little to dampen the game’s overall appeal. However, as with any big trend, it quickly brings out the worst in people, whether they be negligent, idiotic, or exploitative. It will certainly be interesting to see, as the game continues to expand, how Pokémon Go will play a role in people’s lives. It’s by no means one of 2016’s best video games, yet easily stands out as one of its most important.

Image credit: StayFrostyBro & Shirodraw98

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualSense at this point.

8 Comments

  1. I have not played the game myself. However it is nice to see my teenage son go out meet up with his mates and go hunting!! It sure beats him staying in his room and talking to them over the playstation.

    All these scare stories in the press are just the usual nonsense you get when something is popular. Im not going to discourage my son from playing based on a hand full of idiots who cant look where they are going.

  2. But 33 year old men are giving up their jobs to go Pokemon Go hunting…its utterly stupid…it won’t be long before a fatal accident occurs because of this…

    It seems a great idea but like all gaming its needs to be done in moderation but we have people, grown men who are giving up everything to do this.

    It’s crazy.

    • You also have 33 year old men deciding that they’d like to give up their jobs and go travelling for a year. Who are we to say that they shouldn’t have the freedom to do so?

      And as for fatal accidents, there have already been plenty of these, such as the kids that were shot when they decided that they needed to trespass onto someone else’s property while playing Pokémon Go and actual car accidents when playing… but if they’re prepared to play games while driving, then they’re more than prepared to divert their attention to texting while driving.

      So the key is that gaming needs to be done when it’s appropriate. As Jim said, this can bring out the worst in people, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds of other things in the world that can do the same.

      • Agreed, if you read the article rather than the obvious sensationalist headline of “man quits job for pokemon go” you’ll have seen he actually wanted to go traveling; pokemon go was the just something that gave him the kick up the backside to do it.

  3. It seems that Pokémon Go triggers the dumb idiot effect in certain people and they ignore common sense. Many seem to use it as an excuse to trespass and many seem to ignore their surrondings. Partly why i dislike it. It’s just a walking simulator that happens to make people walk. A WW2 Musem had to ask Pokémon Go players to not come for pokémon and traffic being stopped because of pokémon players is rather silly.

    Recently, the coastguard in kent had to be dispatched to investigate a report of teens stranded in risky waters. People, use your brains! We all have them! COMMON SENSE!

    God,now i am feeling like an old man and a sane one in a world gone pokémad.(Copyright Steven 2016)

    Also, the person that called the police because of a stolen pokémon is a dumb idiot moron. Yes, i know it is the same thing but they are twice as much idiot and qualify as an idiot moron.

  4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; this game is a Darwinism app in disguise. If you are genuinely stupid enough to play this while driving, crossing the road, near a cliff you deserve whatever befalls you. The same if you’re giving away your email and password for these other services. If a stranger robs you because you’ve given them the keys to your house I’m not sure you’ll much sympathy from your peers or the law.

  5. After spending some of my younger years complaining about Chinese gold farmers in the MMO I was playing (FFXI), I find it rather amusing that I am now hearing my gran complain about scammers ruining this game.

    She actually said “If people didn’t use them, they would just stop being a problem” (paraphrasing). and I thought “Oh gran, you sweet summer child” which was an amusing thought in itself, as she is in her 80s now…

  6. WE really need something to be done about the damn spam and i’m certain this is breaking a lot of site rules.

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