ANALYSIS: What you need to know about Pokémon Go
So this was supposed to be a really informative column with high-tech words like 'Digital mapping', 'Geo transparency', 'Location data', 'Augmented reality', 'Malware' and 'Hacking' - to name just a few.
Unfortunately, I have to part ways with the excitement of 'techsplaining' any of these things in relation to the app's security risk because its creators are now fixing that. Dammit.
But I get attached really quickly, so I can't let this bit of information that has found a place in my heart slip through my hands. Let me share some of it with you anyway, and then we can get to the fun stuff okay?
WHAT IS POKÉMON GO?
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that detects where you are in the real world by using your phone's GPS and makes the Pokémon appear in the actual game depending on your location.
WHAT IS AUGMENTED REALITY? OR AG (LIKE THE COOL KIDS SAY)?
This is an alternate universe previously reserved for weird IT peeps who only eat Fruit Loops, use gaming specific laptops with alien stickers on them and probably know how to speak Klingon. Pokémon Go has kind of changed that. Now augmented reality can be for everyone. Through the use of your smartphone, GPS, your phone's camera and some other really cool technology, you're able to actually be in life and in your screen (the game) at the same time.
WHAT'S A POKÉMON ANYWAY?
Pokémon means pocket monster in Japanese and it's a hybrid word. The cartoon gained popularity in the early 2000s. Here's some stuff you should know:
- Pokémon don't talk, they only say their own names (Like Tellytubbies).
- There are currently over 700 characters (unlike the Tellytubbies - the creators knew we could only deal with four, thank Madonna!).
- They live in the wild or alongside humans (totally believable).
- Pokémon are raised and controlled by 'trainers' - their owners (like toddlers, they need to be taught how to do things).
- Over time and through the playing of games and having adventures, Pokémon grow, get more experience and sometimes evolve into stronger Pokémon (similar to Smurfs, except, not at all really).
WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, WHO, HOW?
Pokémon started as a Nintendo video game in 1998, but gained popularity when they turned it into an animated TV show. Now, it's a franchise. At the peak of the cartoon's popularity, one couldn't comfortably and randomly engage in a Russian ballet inspired pirouette in public (as one does) without smacking a Pikachu (one of the most popular characters) in the face.
And now, thanks to Pokémon Go, players in the streets are walking about, staring at their phones, trying to find PokéStops so that they can pick up items (in the game) that will lead them to finding these things that only know how to say their own names. When the animated creature appears, they use the game to toss Pokéballs at it until they can be captured. Point? You can now smack real people in the face while trying to 'gooi' a pirouette in public.
WATCH: The trailer for Pokémon Go
IS POKÉMON GO GOING TO GET YOU BECAUSE OF SECURITY RISKS?
Here's where I get upset. So there was this really cool and also creepy thing that happened.
You can log into the app by using your Google account. When you do this, you give the game and the game's owner Niantic full access to your emails, Google Drive documents, search history, IP addresses and location. The owners can retain this information.
Basically, the app can then read and possibly write your emails, check out your map usage and your private photos. Those "for your eyes only" pics? Yeah, this makes it for everyone's eyes. Creepier thought still, access to pictures of your children etc. I'll leave it at that.
Your private information becomes very public. This means that a malicious attacker can get their hands on the info, change all your passwords and have access to your bank accounts and any of your online life really. This is therefore not the Yellowpages. Your fingers cannot do the walking. Someone else can happily stroll through your digital world though.
Anyway, Niantic has since released a statement saying that this was an oversight, and that they did not mean to just take millions of people's data without warning, so they are fixing it. Great for users of the game, not so great for Haji. I was going to tell you really cool stuff about the implications of this security risk and the "dark net". But… remedied.
WATCH: Pokémon Go is a go
However, all is not lost in the "did you know" department. Here are five recent findings that have surfaced since the release of the game in the US about a week ago:
1. It's assisting the US in adopting a global standard and becoming part of the world.
The game uses the metric system to measure the distance players need to walk to find Jigglypuff, for example. The US is one of only three countries that have thus far refused to adopt this system. Because… Americans. Go for kilometres. Death to miles.
2. Maths made easy
Related to the above, if you think in the imperial system, you have to convert. Quickly. How many miles does 5km equal? Well, you better hurry up and find out, or else game over buddy. PS: South Africans, we will have to find another educational advantage to this game for you when it launches here.
3. Witness the fitness
It's taking gamers off their couches and into the streets. You don't even understand. This game is so addictive that people are literally running around parks etc to find these creatures. Some players are wearing Fitbits and noticing a massive increase in their progress since they've started playing. Some are only playing it for the sole reason of getting exercise. It's making exercise fun, and not at all weird. The pale Klingon speaking gamers are being transformed into that guy from 300. Watch out Tinder.
4. Netflix and chill is dead, long live Pokémon Go and Chill
I am not going to explain what Netflix and Chill is. Google is your friend people. A friend that steals information, but a true friend. True friends know everything about you anyway. So go ask Google.
Pokémon Go and Chill, however, means that you and a hookup are going to the park to find pocket monsters and probably play with each other's 'pocket monsters' as well. It's also breathed fresh life into the nude selfie. Again, Google is your friend. All you need do is search: Pokêmon Go_nude. _NSFW (not suitable for work).
5. Prozac is so last season, pop a Pokémon Go
Several users of the game have shared the benefits the game has had on their mental health. Psychologists and scientists have picked up on this trend and are now looking into researching it properly. People living with depression or anxiety say that since playing the game their moods are lifted and the mental health benefits have been better than that experienced because of medication. Professionals are attributing this to the fact that players are being forced to go outside and be social in order to play the game.
Look, I don't know how I feel about this particular kind of pocket monster. I certainly don't have a problem working out without needing to go and find them and I obviously already use the metric system. However, if it takes a game to help me shake off my occasional Sylvia Plath complex, I might check it out.
_Haji Mohamed Dawjee is employed by Code For Africa at the head office in Cape Town as programme manager for impactAFRICA - the continent's largest fund for digital-driven data storytelling. She is a regular commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter: @sageofabsurd _