Wednesday 25 April 2018

Pokémon Go: some see a fad, others a conspiracy to locate Chinese bases

Dozens of people gather to play Pokémon Go in front of the Sydney Opera House as the app craze sweeps nations. Photo: Getty
Dozens of people gather to play Pokémon Go in front of the Sydney Opera House as the app craze sweeps nations. Photo: Getty

Paul Carsten

Not everyone loves Pokémon Go, the mobile game that has become an instant hit around the world since a limited release just a week ago.

The augmented reality game, in which players walk around real-life neighbourhoods to hunt and catch virtual cartoon characters on their smartphone screens, has been blamed in the United States for several robberies of distracted mobile phone users and car crashes.

A US senator has asked the developers of the game to clarify its data privacy protections.

And although the game is not available in China, the world's biggest smartphone and online gaming market, some people there fear it could become a Trojan horse for offensive action by the United States and Japan.

"Don't play Pokémon Go!!!" said user Pitaorenzhe on ­Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo. "It's so the US and Japan can explore China's secret bases!"

The conspiracy theory is that Japan's Nintendo, which part-owns the Pokémon franchise, and America's Google can work out where Chinese military bases are by seeing where users can't go to capture Pokémon characters.

The game relies on Google services such as Maps.

The theory is that if Nintendo places rare Pokémon in areas where they see players aren't going, and nobody attempts to capture the creature, it can be deduced that the location has restricted access and could be a military zone.

"Then, when war breaks out, Japan and the US can easily target their guided missiles, and China will have been destroyed by the invasion of a Japanese-American game," said a social media post circulated on Weibo.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was unaware of reports that the game could be a security risk and that he didn't have time to play with such things. He gave no further details.

Other government ministries did not respond to questions.

But the calls for a boycott, and the fact that Pokémon Go hasn't even been released in China, have not deterred fans.

"I really looked forward to playing the Pokémon artificial reality game since they first announced it. I really liked Pokémon as a kid," said Gan Tian, a 22-year-old student at Tsinghua University.

She plays an unofficial version with an artificial map based on countries where the game is available. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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