Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you may have heard that a new augmented reality game Pokemon GO is taking the nation by storm. Chances are you might have even downloaded the app.
Players of all ages now have another reason to stare at their phones. But rather than texting or playing Candy Crush, Pokemon GO has led millions of players to explore their neighborhoods and get outdoors in a quest to capture as many mythical creatures as they can.
While social critics might despair at the digital culture that has tethered so many to their mobile devices, game makers and other commentators have remarked at how successfully it has driven people outdoors, many of whom might have been staying indoors playing video games instead.
In just about a week on the market, Pokemon GO had attracted 21 million daily users to become the most popular mobile game in US history, causing Nintendo stock shares to soar 25 percent on Monday and 13 percent on Tuesday.
Walk the streets almost anywhere in America right now and you’ll see people glued to their phones playing the game. For families, the game can be a unifying experience, while others are exploring places they’ve never been.
“It’s true, people spend more time indoors, they tend to know their neighbors less, some of those traditional activities have been supplanted by talking to people on Facebook or email, playing video games and watching movies on our big screen TVs,” John Hanke, founder of Pokemon GO creator Niantic, told Time magazine.
“I think it’s really awesome that digital technology has evolved to the point that now we can use it, because it’s mobile, and we can build applications like Pokémon Go that can go and fill some of that void, some of these spaces that have been evacuated,” Hanke said.
Users over the past week shared screenshots of the game from all over the place, in some cases leading them to bizarre locations. One pair of players kayaked out to a “gym,” which players can compete over for control.
In another case, players exploring a park for Pokemons found a dead body. And in another story, players were lure to an empty parking lot late at night where they were robbed.
The game’s creators say they try to impart common sense on their players, advising players to be respectful of the law and private property, but ultimately does not have much control.
“I do think people are figuring out the social mores of how to act and what it means,” Hanke told Time. “It’s to some extent new territory.”
— Kelsey Thomson (@Kelchup) July 10, 2016