Fads are a regular occurrence in our fast-paced, ADD-ridden culture.
We run from shiny thing to shiny thing, instantly fascinated and quickly bored.
Swatch Watches in the ’80s and (of course) parachute pants, those awful rubber band bracelets my daughter wore by the truckload a couple of years ago. The yahoos from Duck Dynasty are a trend that hopefully will go away very soon.
This month, a digital craze began sweeping the world, via the weird world of Pokémon, and their innovative new app Pokémon Go.
Why is Pokémon being featured in a professional column? Because the tech use in it is off the charts and criminals have found a way to get in the mix, actually monetizing from gameplay.
Put your tray tables up and your chair in an upright position; this is going to be an interesting ride for you. Wheels up.
To start our story, we must journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Pokémon began as the hobby of Satoshi Tajiri, who as a child was into catching bugs and tadpoles near his home in suburban Tokyo. Tajiri decided to put his idea of catching creatures into practice, to give kids the same thrills he had as a child.
In 1996 – after getting Nintendo on board – the first game was launched (where you try and “catch ‘em all”) followed by trading cards, toys, TV, a touring show, movies and more games.
The object of the game is to collect creatures; this latest version has the same goal.
Pokémon is a free-to-play mobile app unless you are foolish enough to buy PokéCoins during game play. Yes, this is a real thing.
The game works by tapping into your phone’s GPS for real-world location and augmented reality to bring up those cool-looking Pokémon on your screen, overlaid on top of what you see in front of you.
And you—the digital you—can be customized with clothing, a faction (or “team” of players you can join) and other options, and you level up as you play.
In reality, you are walking around at the grocery store, park or pub, catching Pokémon. You add them to your Pokébex (your jail of Pokémon), and once you have a few, you then battle other people. You can also go to Pokéstops to gather items to help your game play. This is the “lure” function.
Three people were robbed at gunpoint in Baltimore this week while playing Pokémon Go, Baltimore County police say. In this case, it appears the victims were so engrossed with their phones and the game that they didn’t notice they were alone in a dark alley in a bad neighborhood. This behavior is similar to a teenager on a cellphone who sees nothing of the real world.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, a group of teens was caught Monday using the beacon function to lure other players to a “Pokéstop” location where they were waiting to rob them. This is scary. You are able to lure people to a shady area, who will be distracted, most likely unarmed (as the Pokémon crowd seems like a docile bunch) and easy prey to rob or worse.
As citizens of the digital world, we need to up the dosage on our common sense as being so engrossed in our phones and games, where we would expose ourselves to dangerous situations is alarming, to say the least.
This will not be the last game of this kind that comes up, and the crimes mentioned above will not be the last digital themed crimes committed.
On a lighter note, my wife was driving down the road yesterday by a local park; out of the corner of her eye saw our son in the bushes with some friends laughing and running around. He is 17, so this is not normal behavior, when she asked what he was doing he said “playing Pokémon.”
She wondered if the ’60s were back and LSD was popular with kids again, but I assured her that he was just the latest American on the Pokémon Go train.
Technology makes our lives easier, sometimes more complicated and sometimes more dangerous, so when you are rolling out new tech make sure you are being safe and don’t forget to “catch ‘em all.”