Gamers are Gaga for ‘Pokemon Go’

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Nintendo‘s stock went sky high. Also on the rise? The number of pedestrians walking into trees and concerns over cybersecurity. It’s been a little over a week since the new “Pokemon Go” app graced smartphones and already the intended and unintended consequences are staggering.

The augmented reality-based game takes the basic premise of the Pokemon franchise — catching little monster-like characters and training them to fight — and brings it out into the real world.

“Pokemon Go” superimposes a virtual world over a map of your current location. Pokemon characters and other points of interest are strategically placed at Pokestops like monuments, city buildings and parks for people  to track down in real life.

“Pokemon Go” player Lucy Correa shared what she likes about the app.

“[It] gets you to walk,” she said. “You get exercise. I wouldn’t be walking as much of it wasn’t for the app, honestly. And explore where we live.”

Flight attendants Correa and Sergio Pimentel are new to the area. In addition to discovering interesting places, they’ve also met new people.

“I was at the park the other day and there was a whole group of people and they were like, ‘Are you on Pokemon?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ They were like, ‘What team are you?’ ‘What are you catching?’ I’m like, ‘Ah, so many questions!'” Correa recalled. “A lot of people do it. It’s crazy. Insane actually.”

The commercial for “Pokemon Go” clearly pushes the fitness benefits of the game and the fun of being outdoors. Gamers are on bikes, jogging and enjoying a sunny day.

It may be a nuisance for businesses and sometimes even homes unknowingly housing Pokemon, but it’s a blessing for historical sites, nonprofits and others looking to drive new traffic.

Lieutenant Robert Garofalo of the West Windsor Police Department says enjoy the game, but play safely.

“Let’s pay attention to where we’re walking, let’s pay attention if we’re in a car not even picking this thing up. And also even for little kids. I mean parents should be very aware with their children that you don’t want them wondering into people’s backyards. Especially not wondering into people’s houses. It’s very simple for these kids to see if they have a marker somewhere or a beacon somewhere and they’re going to go into someone’s backyard,” Garofalo said.

A girl in Wyoming made national news when she found a dead body pursuing Pokemon. In Missouri, teens allegedly set up a virtual trap, called a lure to attract players. When several people came to catch the virtual Pokemon, the group robbed them of their very real cellphones.

“Well we go in a group,” said Correa. “So, we don’t go by ourselves. We try not to because we’ve read a lot of the stuff that they’re doing. And we don’t go anywhere that makes us feel unsafe.”

“There’s safety in numbers,” Pimentel chimed in. “We’re all Team Yellow, so we all try to help each other out.”

There’s also the matter of the location-based app tracking users’ whereabouts and a lot more. The company that created “Pokemon Go”, Niantic Inc., was originally a startup out of Google. The first version of the app gave Google access to the user’s emails, contacts and other information. A software update has now fixed the “Google account scope”.

Manny Gomez, president of MG Security, is an expert on cyber security.

“It seems like this wasn’t done intentionally or maliciously, but it was done nonetheless, and millions of people throughout the world have released all of their private information out to Google,” Gomez said.

Despite these concerns, the “Pokemon Go” app remains number one on iTunes. So if you’re compelled to “catch ’em all”, get the latest version of the app, read the fine print and always be aware of your surroundings.