In the last few decades, technology has grown at an incredible pace. Due to the access, speed, and improvements in devices, games, video, and social media, there has been concerns by some people that technology is taking over our lives, as well as the lives of children who seem to spend far less time playing outside and socializing with actual people, and far more time glued to various screens. In July of 2016, a compromise became available which gave people a reason go to outside, phones in hand, and get some exercise. It was a location-based augmented reality game known as Pokemon Go.
The premise of Pokemon Go was simple. Pokemon, fictional animals/creatures with powers were already well-known and had been since the ’90s for a variety of products and media, including cartoons, trading cards, video games, comic books, and toys. Players who downloaded the Pokemon Go app could find virtual pokemon hanging out pretty much anywhere, from sidewalks to parks to public buildings. Suddenly, droves of people were out walking the streets, hunting pokemon and, along the way, they would interact by helping direct strangers and even joining teams. The game was a hit, and for a few weeks when the game was released it was nearly impossible to walk a single city block without finding someone hunting for the next elusive pokemon.
However, it looks like gamers in China will not get the chance to play anytime soon. It was recently reported by Reuters that the state censor of China is holding off releasing the game due to a variety of safety concerns. Instead, the censor is working with the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and other areas of government to determine how risky the game is. The censor explained their logic for the Pokemon Go ban, saying they have “a high level of responsibility to national security and the safety of people’s lives and property.”
A games panel of the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association also posted online, citing the potential risk posed by Pokemon Go as being a “threat to geographical information security and the threat to transport and the personal safety of consumers.”
The concerns certainly have merit. After the game was released in America and other countries, reports began coming in of car accidents where drivers, or pedestrians, were so distracted by the games that they did not see each other. People, trees, and other cars were apparently struck, causing serious injuries and sometimes even death, because people were paying too much attention to their phones and not enough to their surroundings. There were even reports of stampedes in Taiwan and Japan when thousands of players descended on the same locations.
Furthermore, anytime people use public connections to access apps and data on their cell phones, it’s something of a risk to their security. People can use GPS to track others they want to cause harm to, or hack their phones to steal personal information.
Most technology carries some level of security risks, and similar accidents were also attributed to people making calls on their cell phone when they first became popular, and again due to texting while driving. Over time, a combination of awareness, new laws, and hands-free technology has helped lessen those kinds of incidents. So perhaps it is only a matter of time before China welcomes Pokemon Go into the country. For now though, the people of China will have to make due playing video games the old-fashioned way: staying still.