Pokémon Go: Top 3 Pros and Cons

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Source: Andrew Griffin, “Pokémon Go: We Didn’t Mean to Intrude on People’s Privacy by Reading Gmail Messages, Developers Say,” independent.co.uk, July 12, 2016

With more than 21 million daily active users in the United States in its first week, Pokémon Go has become the most popular US mobile game ever. It has surpassed social media apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter for daily use on Android devices. [1] [2] The basic premise of the game is that players try to capture Pokémon in a kind of scavenger hunt that uses the GPS on their mobile phones while walking around in the real world. The game’s slogan is “Gotta catch ’em all.” [3]

Some players have gotten a lot of exercise, explored new parts of their communities, and made new friends. Others have injured themselves while walking distracted, played in inappropriate places, and been targeted by criminals. We present some of the pros and cons in the debate over whether Pokémon Go is good or bad for our society.

Is Pokémon Go Good for Our Society?

Pro 1

There are mental and physical health benefits from playing the game.

Walking around is necessary to play the game, and users are getting physical health benefits from the exercise. [4] One user told BuzzFeed, “I have struggled with motivation and energy since I was 9, when I developed severe depression… But as soon as I got Pokémon Go I was able to leave the house, and I walked outside for hours and suddenly found myself enjoying it. I had the instant rush of dopamine whenever I caught a Pokémon, and I wanted to keep going. Then today and yesterday I purposely put myself in social situations, going to the mall, just to play.” [5]

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Pro 2

The game is bringing people together and creating a sense of community.

By exploring their communities and sharing information about where to find creatures, players are interacting with strangers. One player wrote on Twitter about a late night experience during which he befriended two other players of a different race and age group. While they were talking, they were approached by a police officer. After they explained the game to him, the officer also started playing. [6] “[O]verall, this is a positive moment, a moment of real community and good feelings all thanks to a mobile game and some adorable Pokémon,” wrote Erik Kain, Forbes contributor. [7]

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Pro 3

The game is a boon to local businesses.

As people explore their towns while playing the app, they are discovering new bars, shops, restaurants, and more. This increase in foot traffic is boosting up businesses. “With Pokémon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers, and for very little money,” wrote business expert Walter Chen. [8] Some stores around the country have reported an increase in sales between 5 and 30 percent. [9]

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Con 1

Playing the game can lead to injury.

News reports say that users have tripped, fallen into a lake, crashed a car, and sustained other injuries while playing. [10] [11] The National Safety Council released a statement urging people to be more cautious while using Pokémon Go, saying in part, “Reports of close calls associated with playing Pokémon Go already are rolling in. The Council urges gamers to consider safety over their scores before a life is lost. No race to ‘capture’ a cartoon monster is worth a life.” [12]

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Con 2

People are playing the game in inappropriate places.

In their quest to capture creatures, players are failing to respect their surroundings. Arlington National Cemetery released a statement saying, “Out of respect for all those interred at Arlington National Cemetery, we require the highest level of decorum from our guests and visitors. Playing games such as Pokémon Go on these hallowed grounds would not be deemed appropriate.” [13] The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has also asked visitors to stop catching Pokémon on site. [14] The 9/11 Memorial in New York City is also inundated with players. “A lot of people died here. It’s a place to reflect, not to play a game,” a visitor told TIME magazine. [15]

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Con 3

Criminals are targeting distracted users, leaving players susceptible to crime.

Four teens in Missouri were arrested on suspicion of committing at least 10 armed robberies by using the app to lure users to a specific location. [16] A police department in Philadelphia warned on Twitter, “Be mindful on what you play online, A String of armed robberies perpetrated by suspects who targeted their victims using Pokémon Go.” [17]

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Click for an Encyclopaedia Britannica video demonstration of Pokémon GO

Sources:

1.Sarah Perez, "Pokémon Go Tops Twitter's Daily Users, Sees More Engagement Than Facebook," techcrunch.com, July 13, 2016
2.Joseph Schwartz, "Pokémon GO: The Data behind America's Latest Obsession," similarweb.com, July 10, 2016
3.German Lopez, "Pokémon Go, Explained," vox.com, July 13, 2016
4.Andrew Richdale, "Is Pokémon Go Good for Travel?," afar.com, July 12, 2016
5.Alicia Melville-Smith, "Playing Pokémon Go Is Helping People with Mental Health Issues Feel Better," buzzfeed.com, July 10, 2016
6.Mark Molloy, "Man Searching for Pokémon at 3am Caught up in 'Drug Deal' Mix-Up," telegraph.co.uk, July 10, 2016
7.Erik Kain, "'Pokémon GO' Is More Than Just a Game and It's Bringing People Together," forbes.com, July 11, 2016
8.Walter Chen, "Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small Local Businesses. Here's How It Works," inc.com, July 11, 2016
9.Dylan Segelbaum, "'Pokémon Go' Helps Sales at Some Local Businesses," ydr.com, July 12, 2016
10.Andrea Park, "Pokémon Go Users Are Reporting Injuries, Car Crashes and Sunburns in Their Quests to 'Catch 'Em All'," people.com, July 12, 2016
11.11. Gael Fashingbauer Cooper "Gotta Soak 'Em All! Pokemon Go Hunter Falls into Pond While Playing," cnet.com, July 12, 2016
12.National Safety Council, "Statement from the National Safety Council on Pokémon Go Safety Concerns," prnewswire.com, July 12, 2016
13.Arlington National Cemetery, "ANC Policy Regarding Pokemon Go & Other Smartphone Gaming," arlingtoncemetery.mil, July 12, 2016
14.Allana Akhtar, "Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz Want Pokémon Go Hunts out," usatoday.com, July 13, 2016
15.Melissa Chan, "Pokémon Go Players Anger 9/11 Memorial Visitors: 'It's a Hallowed Place'," time.com, July 12, 2016
16.Ryan W. Miller, "Teens Used Pokémon Go App to Lure Robbery Victims, Police Say," usatoday.com, July 11, 2016
17.Philadelphia Police Department 35th District, Twitter post, twitter.com, July 10, 2016