Pokémon Go Responsibly

Pokémon Go is taking Israel by storm even though it has not even been officially released here yet. Staggeringly it’s already overtaken Twitter in the number of active users. And it did that in less than a week. And though it has only been released in New Zealand, Australia and the United States that hasn’t stopped gamers from playing it in Israel one way or another. The Pokemon Go Israel Facebook page already has almost 4000 members and is growing exponentially so that by the time you read this it will probably have already broken the 10,000 mark.

And why shouldn’t Israel be in love with it? It combines everything Israelis love — cutting edge technology, pop culture, cute cartoon characters and outdoor fun. But like all fun activities a certain amount of responsibility is required to have that fun safely. Scores of articles have already been written about the dangers involved in playing this game. People have tripped and slipped running after Squirtle and Pikachu. And people have even walked into polls. When it loads up, the game itself actually warns you to watch where you are going, well aware of how easily players might wander into oncoming traffic without realizing it.

But in Israel it presents some additional dangers that we really should be aware of before we start downloading it. And so being the prudent citizen, I promptly downloaded it and took my two and a half year old boy out with his stroller for a walk around the neighborhood. First stop was a small park nearby. I let my son hold my phone which he eagerly did, enjoying the funky video game music and appealing graphics. And then we spotted Mankey across the street. Actually he was technically in the middle of the street as he wasn’t quite on the sidewalk. I switch to AR (Augmented Reality) mode and my 2-year-old started laughing as he saw through the phone a monkey-like creature hop up on his stroller and jump up and down on his legs. I grabbed the phone from him and successfully completed the capture. But right away, I saw how easily a less responsible player might not have looked both ways before running after the prey in the middle of the street.

The next thing I noticed was how much walking was required for this game — that’s not a danger in its own right, but the thermometer at the time was hitting 91 F. So make a note that it might not be the best idea to play this game in the middle of a hot summer day, unless you properly protect yourself from the sun and bring plenty of water. Also, with the sun out, you may have trouble seeing your phone screen — which brings us to the next danger: playing at night.

So it was reported that in O’Fallon, Missouri, muggers set up a Pokémon hotspot (there are ways to lure creatures to certain spots) to bait victims into a secluded parking lot where they then robbed them at gunpoint. While muggings might not be the primary fear here in Israel, with the terror situation the way it is, and the active threat of terrorist kidnapping on our minds, one has to pay extra attention not to venture off to anyplace unsafe or into any neighborhoods you wouldn’t normal pass through on foot. Also, it is probably not a good idea to break into a military base to catch Articuno, no matter how rare the sighting.

It has also been pointed out that Pokémon Go drains your phone battery awfully fast and it’s not inconceivable for an enthusiastic player to find themselves stranded in an isolated area with a dead cellphone battery. So please, again, be careful and enjoy responsibly.

As for me, now that I got to examine how this really cool game utilizes all the latest technologies and cutting edge programming techniques I’m going to promptly uninstall it… right after I catch just a few more creatures. I promise.

About the Author
Pinchas Orbach was the CTO for VoiceofIsrael.com and served as an Information Security Specialist for the United States government. He lectured for the Computer Science Department at Queens College and volunteers his time with Aliyah organizations. He himself made Aliyah from Queens, New York and now lives in Jerusalem with his wife and two sons.