Point of No Return: Smartphone sensation grabs a lot of attention

Four score and seven years ago...

Sorry, I was working on an original speech and it just spilled into the beginning of my column here.

Where was I? Yes! Pokemon Go. Surely you are aware of this phenomenon sweeping the nation, and many corners of the world. The crafty people at Nintendo have figured out a way to combine the passion of one generation’s love of all things Pokemon from two decades ago with modern-day technology, using smartphones as a platform for a geo cache-type game that has people sticking their noses into their phones even more than usual.

Though not really up my alley, I do enjoy watching our own Tom Maglio navigate around the community in all his nerd glory while he chases fictional characters that look like bugs bourne from the mind of a mad scientist on acid. And Tom is not alone. Our esteemed managing editor and technical director have also been participating in the Pokemon conversations and, though she’ll never admit it, I swung by the office on Saturday afternoon and caught our publisher climbing a tree with a smartphone in her mouth.

Editor’s Note: I made up that entire section about Susan Lyons climbing a tree with a phone in her mouth. Sometimes I just have to push those buttons.

Though the game seems harmless enough, outside having to hear about Tom catching a Sneezy Tokakuchu or whatever he is hunting, there have been a few problems that have come from the game’s popularity. One, obviously, has been inattentive pedestrians making their way into traffic as they stay focused on their games. And police across the nation have issued warnings about people playing while they’re driving.

And then there are the opportunists — the people who look for any advantage when it comes to taking advantage of someone else.

WRDE-TV reported earlier this week that a 20-year-old man was playing Pokemon Go near Legislative Avenue in Dover over the weekend when a group of three men called out to him. Thinking they were fellow gamers, according to police, he approached them and was subsequently robbed of cash and a gold necklace.

The story did not say if he caught his Pokemon or not. For the sake of a happy ending, let’s just say he did. Yay, guy!

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported on a Florida man who shot at two teenagers who were playing the game outside his Palm Coast home. He was sleeping when a noise outside his home woke him up, according to the story, and mistook the youths for robbers. Let’s say that the youths caught their targets in this instance, as well. Yay, youths!

Filed under “Why Don’t People Use Their Intelligence For Good?” would be a story I came across from KSWO, an ABC affiliate in Missouri.

According to a article on their website (Remember, kids, always attribute where you get information, or lines for your speeches), four teens reportedly used the Pokemon Go phenomenon to commit multiple robberies in St. Louis and Charles counties.

Police reportedly responded to an armed robbery early Sunday morning and found the suspects sitting inside a vehicle. According to police, a handgun was recovered from them. The group was reportedly targeting their victims through the game, and police believe they added a beacon near a Poke Stop in their location to lure more players to them.

Just a thought: Couldn’t this group of alleged robbers used their obvious tech talents to, you know, do something positive? I’m not one who likes judging people for how they put food on their tables...

But I digress.

NDTV reported on their site that the Indonesian government has ordered police not to play the game while on duty, and will soon also ban military personnel from playing.

“We are worried that police officers may become addicted and we don’t want that because a police officer’s duty is to serve the public,” said national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar. “The job requires hard work and concentration.”

His name is Boy. Really. I looked it up.

Oh, one other item: Andrei Polyakov, a Cossack leader in St. Petersburg, Russia, said that Pokemon Go “reeks of Satanism.” As I said, I have not played the game myself, but I haven’t noticed Tom being any more Satanic than normal. I will be keeping an eye on him, however.

Personally, I’m excited about how popular this game has become. It’s fascinating to see multiple generations of people be so fascinated by one common entity, and I’ve seen friends on Facebook post photos of them playing the game with their children in their respective neighborhoods. Anything that brings people together, particularly in today’s world, is generally a good thing.

But, as is the case with most things, people do need to practice a little moderation, and a lot of common sense. If you are roaming the streets at 2 a.m. looking for a character via your phone, stop. Just stop.

It will be interesting to see how this game develops and how long the popularity continues. I wrote that line myself.