Pokemon a Threat?

Gaming panic


After a 15-year hiatus from the spotlight, Pokemon is (sort of) cool again. Millions of people have downloaded Pokemon Go, a smartphone app that lets them catch virtual creatures from the Nintendo game series. Thanks to the wonders of technology—Google Maps and your phone's camera, specifically—the Pokemon look like they're hanging out in the streets and parks of the real world, waiting to be caught.

For most people, it's good fun. But for others, the app is cause for concern. It requires people to walk around outside, looking at their phones. Occasional reports of players tripping over fallen branches and walking into other people have trickled in, prompting scare headlines from dozens of news sites. "Pokemon Go craze is causing real-life injuries and danger," warned Today, for instance.

It didn't stop there. News outlets also started reporting that pedophiles could be using Pokemon Go to lure unsuspecting kids away from their homes. The danger here was purely theoretical—to date, no kid has been abducted while trying to catch a Pikachu—but it was compelling enough to persuade the state of New York that there ought to be a law. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed legislation that would prohibit registered sex offenders, whether or not their crimes involved children, from downloading the app.

And there's another group of naysayers that hates Pokemon Go: socialists. In July the leftist website Jacobin published an article decrying the game as a tool of capitalism. "Pokemon Go is coercion, authority," wrote Sam Kriss. "It must be resisted." Good luck with that.