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Pokémania

14 July 2016 | Ross Jones

Pokémon is back . . . whether you want it to be or not.

Nintendo has this week released Pokémon Go, a free-to-play smartphone game in which you catch the little pocket monsters in an augmented version of your surroundings.

You can catch water-type Pokémon near the beach, grass-types in parks and countryside, various and random buildings have been earmarked as landmarks in the game (PokéStops and PokéGyms apparently).

The game is rivalling Twitter for the most activity on Android phones and has been a sweeping success for Nintendo, a company that has slowly been losing the battle to stay relevant.

It’s a cool concept. But it’s also come with it fair share of PR disasters. 

A man’s life has been “ruined” (his words) because his house is now a PokéGym. A group of teens walked absent-mindedly into an armed robbery somewhere in America. There have even been claims that the whole thing is a CIA initiative to read the world’s emails and spy on you.

(I so want this to be true! I want, no, I need, to live in the world where the CIA hires people that put forward intelligence gathering proposals that start with: “What if we were to bring back Pokémon”. And not only does that person not find themselves discredited, fired, and working the graveyard shift as the night manager of a Wal-Mart in some depressing out-post satellite town, but instead gets a promotion, raise, and a plush new corner office with a view. And we all get a CIA-sponsored Pokémon game. That world is almost definitely a better place than this one!)

Anyway, back in (boring) reality, one of the games gyms is a sex shop in Plymouth. This has led to the staff having to deal with dozens of people (mostly children) coming in and asking about Pokémon. Unfortunate, yes. But funny.

The NSPCC has supposedly issued the following warning: “Pokémon Go is a gateway for paedophiles!”. 

Can that really be true?! The game has been out less than a week. If so, this country has some incredibly strategic, incredibly forward-thinking paedophiles. And Nintendo should think twice about continuing with Pokémon’s “Gotta catch ‘em all” tagline.

Yes, Pokémon is sending your children to sex shops (though, so far, only one that we know of) but isn’t it a bit of a stretch to claim its luring them into the clammy, outstretched hands of a thousand Gary Glitters?

This is the type of insanity that greets everything today. Nothing sells quite like sex and hysteria.

I’m sure there are problems with Pokémon Go. But the issues are probably pretty mundane, like young kids walking into on-coming traffic while staring at their phones and trying to catch a particularly stubborn Bulbasaur. Or people sat in offices, ignoring their work, trying to evolve a Jigglypuff before lunch.

It’s an absurd game about catching monsters, that’s had a revival (like Ghostbusters, 21 Jump Street and Rick Astley’s career) because originality took its final breath somewhere at around the start of the 21st century. Anyway, I’m off to train a Level 5 Porygon.