As I write this piece, Pokemon Go, the latest fad among mobile users is not yet officially launched in India. However, this does not mean that people are not playing this free-to-play location-based augmented reality game on their mobile handsets. We are not against anyone using their mobiles for other purposes than what the device was invented for. However, with augmented reality-type games, there is always a danger to the lives of the player as well as those of others.
According to reports, the Dutch company ProRail has complained that players are entering the railway tracks. Residents of the Sydney suburb of Rhodes were so fed up with the large numbers of players gathering in their area, that they threw water bombs at the visiting players, says another news report. Police, from several countries, have issued warnings about inattentive driving and trespassing, while playing the game. Many people have suffered injuries from accidents related with the game, as per media reports.
Now about the game. Pokémon Go was released in July 2016 on iOS and Android-based devices. Using the device’s GPS and camera, the game allows players to capture, battle and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon. These Pokémons appear on the device screen just like in the real world. They can be anywhere and everywhere, like a shop, restaurant or a garden. The player creates its own avatar to play this game which moves as the player roams around the game’s map. Depending on the location the player is moving around in, she would come across the Pokémons. For example, near water, there is a water-type Pokemon which the player has to capture. In addition, players are required to physically travel to explore the game’s map and visit PokéStops and gyms. The ultimate goal of the game is to complete the entries in the Pokédex, a comprehensive Pokémon encyclopaedia, by capturing and evolving to obtain the original 151 Pokemon.
Within 24 hours after its release, Pokémon Go topped the American App Store’s ‘Top Grossing’ and ‘Free’ charts. The average daily usage of the app on Android devices exceeded Snapchat, Tinder, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, says a report. And all this, despite the game suffering from frequent crashes or outages of servers due to high number of users. The funniest part is that people in China, where Pokemon Go is not launched, used IDs from Australian app stores and a GPS spoofing app for Google services, to play the game! This happened across several countries.
My point, especially in the Indian context, is that we do not have the kind of roads and landscapes and the rules for citizens to behave in public spaces. The infrastructure, at places where the Pokémon Go is officially launched and is being played by millions of mobile users, is much better than in India. And, yet, there are accidents and injuries. I can imagine what would happen to a youngster who would play the game on ever-crowded streets of Mumbai (or for that matter any other metros or even a Tier-II city).
Mobiles were basically developed as tool for communication; they are now evolving as an entertainment device. However, this development has come at a cost. A cost for frequently charging (changing in some cases) batteries, high utilisation of Internet data and strain on eyes are just few examples. Not to forget medical treatment charges for injuries caused due to the addiction of playing games or using mobiles while walking on a busy road or a rail station. But, it is you who will be paying the cost.