Pokémon Go's been out in the US since July, and between the game's many ongoing problems, PR issues and enduring real-life controversies and backlashes, it's still making headlines...for better or worse. Here are some more things that might surprise you about Pokémon Go:
This Is Some Crazy Pokémon Go Stuff Right Here...
1. Truck Driver Blames Pokémon Go for Fatal Collision with Pedestrians
It's happened: only a few weeks from Pokémon Go's global release, Japanese law enforcement officials are reporting the first death linked to Pokémon Go.
The traffic accident occurred in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Two women were crossing the street when they were struck by a vehicle. The driver of the truck told police he was distracted playing Pokémon Go, and not watching the road. One woman was killed, the other in the hospital.
As a spokesman from Niantic pointed out, Pokémon Go pops up a prompt that interrupts further game playing when it detects an increase in speeds that go beyond normal walking speeds. The prompt is meant to be a safety measure to discourage unsafe driving habits, the very same habits that allegedly caused the fatal accident. Investigations are still ongoing, but this story is but one of many reports of traffic or pedestrian-related accidents linked to Pokémon Go that's been filtering in from around the world.
Not exactly the kinds of headlines Niantic would like to be making.
2. Just Say 'No' to Fake Pokémon Go
Thanks to the magic of augmented reality, July 6th, 2016 was the date when nearly 150 species of Pokémon crossed over the borders of our imagination and started populating the real world. Or at least, parts of the real world in North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Other areas of the world had to wait up to 9 extra days to get their Pokémon Go on, and for many, that was just 9 days too long. Many wound up scrounging around the less savory regions of the vast, seething morass that is the internet, and downloaded bootlegged versions of the free app. Or, at least, they thought they were downloading bootlegged copies of Pokémon Go.
Turns out what most people downloaded wasn't even a halfhearted attempt at knocking off Pokémon Go, but virus-strewn nuisance apps that flooded their phones with ads and useless, unwanted applications. The worst of these fakes even secretly took control of the user's phone, monitoring usage and uploading personal data without the user's knowledge into that murky, criminal underworld of data theft and profiteering that's increasingly being known as 'the dark web.'
As of this writing, the Japan Times reports that there are at least 43 different fake versions of Pokémon Go still floating around on the web, and advises that budding Pokémon trainers exercise caution when downloading the popular app.
Preying on kids and Pokémon fans, you scum of the internet? That's gotta be some kind of new low.
3. Pokémon Go has been banned in Saudi Araba...Or Not?
You might not think a game that encourages active, healthy outdoor time pursuing imaginary cartoon creatures could possibly impinge on anyone's core life values, but religious clerics in Saudi Arabia were certainly feeling that way.
Facts about the current state of the fatwa have proven surprisingly hard to pin down. Some news sites are reporting that the ban had been imposed long before Pokémon Go's release, while others claim that Saudi Arabia denies that the ban ever took place. But what we do know is that the Arab News has posted the details of a fatwa, or an “Islamic religious ban,” which targets Pokémon Go.
The ban actually renews a previous fatwa issued against the Pokémon trading card game, which was accused of promoting gambling. The fatwa also condemns the Pokémon franchise in general as anti-creationism (Pokémon "evolution" is a crucial part of gameplay) and asserts that it's rife with symbols and logos of "devious religions and organizations" like Judaism, Masonry, Christianity, and polytheistic religions like Japanese Shintoism.
Of course, this isn't the first incident of the location-based augmented reality game sparking controversy. The director of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as well as caretakers of the Auschwitz memorial, have all issued heartfelt, but firm requests to the makers of Pokémon Go to remove the memorial sites as in-game locations for Pokéstops.
4. Badass Pokémon Go Players Help Capture a Criminal
Early one July morning in downtown Fullerton, California, two 20-something roommates and fellow Pokémon enthusiasts decided to team up and hit the streets for a day of adventure and Pokémon hunting in their bustling neighborhood. After about an hour chasing Pidgies and probably running across more Zubats than they could shake a gyroscope at, one of the young men's game froze at a Pokéstop near a museum at Pomona and Wilshire avenues.
According to the LA Times, the young man looked up and saw an individual acting very strangely towards a woman and her three sons. The person was an older guy wearing a mismatched outfit, including an oversized jacket and a baseball cap. He appeared to be holding a fake rose in his hand and was busily snapping his fingers and acting fidgety.
When the two roommates approached the man, he claimed to be looking for a shelter or cigarettes but declined the roommate's offer to guide him to a police station where he could be directed to the appropriate resources. The man walked away, but his behavior left the roommates feeling uncomfortable.
Being good Samaritans, the roommates decided to follow the man and keep an eye on him. What they saw was the man behaving in increasingly discomforting ways, including wiping his hand across a boy's chest and shoulders.
Eventually, the roommates tailed the man to a playground, where they saw him grab a boy's foot and move his hand up the boy's leg. The roomies sprang into action, with one calmly escorting the man out of the playground while the other stayed with the youth and his mother. Police arrived shortly to arrest the man, who turned out to be wanted on several charges that included attempted murder, assault, and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Luckily, the entire situation was handled peacefully – things could have very easily gotten out of hand. And if they did, this story would likely not have ended very happily for the creep: as it turns out, the roommates were Marine Corp veterans, Javier Soch and Seth Ortega.
It's hard not to read their story and imagine Soch and Ortega as real-life superheroes whose alter-egos happen to be nerdtastic Pokémon trainers. Because just like larger-than-life superheroes, all Soch and Ortega have to say about the incident is a pro-tip for life: “The game, when it loads up on the screen, says to be cautious of your surroundings. Strongly follow that advice.”
Also, winners don't do drugs. And stay in school. Remember that, kids!
5. The Internet Is For Pokémon (For a Day)
You might've heard that the internet is for porn, and in many cases, it is. Not many people would outright admit to it, because let's face it, this is porn we're talking about, but Google analytics don't lie; in early July 2016, the very same week of Pokémon Go's release, the search engine juggernaut reported a massive spike in the number of porn searches, specifically VR porn searches, due to the high-profile release of numerous high-end VR sets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
However, just a few days later on July 10, massive porn streaming site YouPorn posted a now-famous snapshot of a Google Trends report proving that searches for Pokémon Go were higher than general “porn” searches. The trend only lasted for a day, but it's hard to imagine that anything could super-effective enough to topple the reigning champion of internet searches, if just for a while.
We salute you, Pokémon Go. Keep trying to be the very best!
6. Pokémon Go Made My Girlfriend Break Up With Me
As it was told to the New York Post, the story goes that Evan Scribner, a Sunnyside, Queens resident, had been cheating on his girlfriend by visiting his ex at her house in Brooklyn. It's a story we've all heard before, but this one has an unusual twist.
On one of these dalliances, Scribner brought out his phone and managed to capture a Pokémon he had only seen in Brooklyn. The trouble is, when he came home to Queens, his girlfriend noticed the new Pokémon. Thanks to the game's geolocating technology and the fact that the interface pretty much lists where each Pokémon had been captured, Scribner's girlfriend was able to tell that he'd been out of town.
When Scribner failed to produce an excuse for what he was doing in Brooklyn, well, that was the end of that relationship. One has to beg the question of why Scribner chose to relay his particular story to the New York Times, apart from wanting to cash in on his 15 seconds of notoriety for having his relationship ruined by Pokémon Go. Grats?
When it first launched in North America, Australia, and New Zealand in early July, Pokémon Go's rousing success took the media by storm. It seemed like everybody had only nice things to say: from the free app's millions of downloads, to staggering numbers of concurrent players during peak usage hours, to the fact that it helped raise Nintendo's stocks by a whopping 120% (until investors realized that Nintendo had next to nothing to do with Pokémon Go, which subsequently sent Nintendo's stocks plummeting roughly $6.4 billion in value in a single day).
With a game that, for a time, saw such a diverse and widespread playerbase, it should come as no surprise that there have been so many interesting, weird and sometimes downright disturbing stories that have been connected to Pokémon Go. Whatever your experiences, we hope you'll continue to game responsibly, and don't forget to look up from your screen every now and then.