Why spend more time staring at our mobile phones when we’re already enslaved by them?
These last few days the old Star Trek saying, “resistance is futile”, comes to mind – helped probably by the latest, and I have to say commendable, escapades of the USS Enterprise on the big screen.
But beyond that, the phrase also resonates because this is the way I feel right now, as everyone around me goes nuts over Pokemon Go.
Restraint isn’t exactly one of my better attributes, but I’m trying my best, amidst a virtual onslaught of this augmented reality game that has taken the world by storm. There&’s just no escaping it.
The Star reported yesterday that schools, colleges, places of worship and even police stations are finding it a nuisance having strangers hanging around their premises, which are designated as PokeStops – places where the players go to replenish their ammunition.
All around me, friends and colleagues have succumbed. There&’s no respite, these Pokemon ‘‘trainers’’ are everywhere – in the office, at home, in the mall, on roadsides, in the park, in carparks and as the Youth and Sports Minister will testify, even at Cabinet retreats!
When you see kids and adults walking around like zombies with their mobile phones held in front of them and when everyone talks about evolving their Pokemons and maximising their Lucky Eggs, then you know it&’s time to join the club or find a cave you can crawl into for a month.
Predictably though, the authorities have not been slow to react to this craze, from warnings about driving while hunting Pokemons to banning the game outright, our leaders have almost unanimously branded the game in negative terms. Even the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has got in on the act, issuing safety guidelines, warning players and parents about online and offline fraud.
“The game requires you to register and share personal information, including information from the phone&’s Global Positioning System. Consider whether you are willing to share such personal information, and parents should be aware that their children&’s data is collected as they play Pokemon Go."
The MCMC also advised gamers against the obvious – don’t wander into dangerous or forbidden areas and places of worship, and don’t ride a bicycle or motorcycle or drive while the playing the game.
But while the killjoys have been quick to find fault, Malaysian businesses have cleverly latched on the phenomenon. Telcos have started offering virtual discounts on “PokeCoins”, ride hailing apps offer discounts to go to PokeStops. F&B outlets are offering deals for trainers. And of course retailers have flooded the market with Pokemon-related merchandise.
The various Sunway Malls have seen an increase in footfall by up to 12 per cent since the craze hit. I can attest to this, having visited another mall and seen the sheer number of shoppers playing the game over the weekend.
Interestingly, Sunway Malls will try to capitalise on the popularity of the game by activating Pokemon Go lure modules at certain hours and at certain PokeStops for fans.
It&’s only been a week or so, but since the game hit our shores, opinion has been divided. There are those who love it and those who oppose the game – there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.
The naysayers are probably right when they say that Pokemon Go is too much of a distraction, but has office productivity been affected? The jury&’s still out on that, but I had a close call the other day when the car in front of me slammed on the brakes near my housing estate. As I screeched to a halt, three pokemon hunters got out and ran to the park across the road.
I related this incident to an avid player in the office and although she is opposed to trainers playing the game while driving, she defended the rights of gamers in general. My colleague said that she has reached her fitness targets everyday since she started playing on account of the amount of walking she has been doing while playing the game (I wonder if she does less work now?).
My colleague also cited the fact that families have started doing things together – chasing those animated animals – as a positive by-product of Pokemon gaming. That, and the bonding element, where friends get together to play and dissect the game.
Personally though, I see Pokemon Go as a gaming fad, much like Candy Crush and Angry Birds. It may be wildly popular now, but I’m sure there will be other augmented reality games that will be appearing on our smartphones soon enough.
Even though I still occasionally play the latter two games, I haven’t succumbed to Pokemon Go simply because I already spend too much time on my smartphone. In reality, most of us are already slaves to our phones, constantly checking our newsfeed and our social media apps. So why would I want to spend even more time hunched over my mobile phone?