Pokemon Go is a smartphone game that has taken the gaming world by storm. It is a game which challenges players to go into their physical environments to capture imaginary creatures called Pokemon, or to find treasure. The game has been developed by Niantic, of which Nintendo is part-owner.

While the incidental exercise players of this game get walking around while hunting for treasure or Pokemon is to be applauded, there are serious ramifications which cannot be overlooked. CNN describes this game as one which uses “augmented reality”. Using various features of the game, players can claim ownership of landmarks or buildings, giving rise to multiple “ownership’s” of physical landmarks or property.  Geo-location within the app lets people pinpoint other players’ location, a feature that has not escaped the attention of robbers who have carried out armed robberies. Armed robbers in Missouri used a “beacon” in the app to lure people into secluded spots and were later apprehended by police. There have been incidents of near-miss car accidents which have taken place when people have been driving around chasing after these virtual creatures. A Wyoming teenager also discovered a dead body in the river near her house when she went looking for a water Pokemon.

While the Pokemon Go gaming app is becoming hugely popular and its use is predicted to increase exponentially over the summer holiday season, it is important to step away from its fan-following to consider its serious effects on our society. Single-dimension games had their own weaknesses, the main one being raising a generation of couch potatoes. Multilayered apps like Pokemon Go are a dangerous intrusion into our everyday reality. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my home or work overrun by gamers staking ownership or capturing creatures all over the place. I most definitely do not want my kids roaming about in isolated locations planted with criminals. When virtual reality clashes with real reality, one has to give. We live in a real world with real people to talk to and interact with. The glue of communication which binds us together has already weakened with most of our significant communication taking place over social media. The boundary between the real and virtual needs to be clearly demarcated or else we run the risk of losing touch with reality altogether and start living in a fantasy world as virtual extensions of our selves.

There have been sightings of young kids roaming in their neighborhood at midnight playing this game, without paying any attention to the surroundings. Parents need to keep a tab on kids to keep them safe.