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Pokemon GO: the Animated Apocalypse?

Signs of impending apocalypse continue to accumulate. The human race becomes ever more decadent. We, in turn, are ever more nervous wondering when The Almighty, His patience exhausted at last, will decide to ring down the curtain on history.

The current Pokemon GO craze isn’t reassuring. Released officially in only a few countries barely a week ago, it has taken much of the world by storm. In some areas, so many players were involved that they overloaded the game servers. Large crowds of players have gathered in cities, and the game has even led to the discovery of a dead body.

In case you haven’t noticed, Pokemon GO is a wildly popular augmented reality game. Players use the GPS functions in their iOS or Android phones to find Pokemon characters, which are overlaid on the ‘real world’ displayed on their screens. By going to the locations displayed, players can ‘catch’ and collect Pokemon characters– 250 different ones. The game further encourages movement in the real world with actual landmarks designated as Pokestops or gyms. A Pokestop is a venues for collecting Pokeballs and other in-game items. A gym is an arena in which rival teams battle.

According to players we know in Austin, there are few Pokestops or gyms either in downtown Austin or on the UT campus. There are many in New Braunfels. We don’t know why.

Some information technology analysts consider Pokemon GO an enormous social good. Unlike other internet or video games, this game encourages people to explore the ‘real world’ outside of their homes. Pokemon Go encourages exercise and face-to-face communication with other people.

There is a fly in the ointment, though. The arenas and treasure caches for the game are not just in major landmarks. Some Pokemon Go sites are memorials, museums, graveyards, hospitals, churches, private homes, and police stations.

One can even catch Pokemon in Auschwitz, the most important Holocaust memorial.

In so recklessly designating Pokestops and gyms, Niantec, the owner of the Pokemon universe, has commandeered public, private, and commercial venues for its own commercial purpose. Homeowners have complained about groups of players gathering outside their homes at all hours of the day and night, and about drivers stopping for several minutes without leaving their cars. Some hospitals have filed criminal complaints against players who entered restricted areas, and a police station in Darwin, Australia was nearly unable to function for hours because it was overrun by players.

So far, Niantec has failed to address these problems. It is leaving affected homeowners, businesses, and public institutions no means for removing their locations from Gym or Pokestop status. Niantec is responding only to reports of augmented sites “that present immediate** physical danger- for example, they are in the middle of a road or on railroad tracks”. (Emphasis is ours.)

The game has obviously gotten out of hand. It is interfering with commerce, religious and communal functions, private family life, even emergency services.

The Almighty has tolerated an awful lot from mankind, but Pokemon GO has to be testing His limits. It certainly is testing the patience of many of us.

(Editor’s note: Some people have taken Pokemon GO to extremes. Still, it demonstrates some of the potential of augmented reality. You may have multiple uses for AR in your home. To get the most out of it, you need a reliable internet connection. Is yours adequate? If it isn’t, talk to us. We can help.)