In a classic Team Rocket move, thieves are using Pokémon Go to steal from its unsuspecting players.
On July 10, Missouri police responded to a call that led to four men being charged with first-degree robbery. Authorities told Motherboard that they were responsible for stealing from 11 players, all between the ages of 16 and 18. They said the suspects used the app’s geolocation feature to track players. “You can add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players. Apparently they were using the app to locate [people] standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in,” a police spokesperson said.
But this isn’t the only time an Eevee has lead to a thievery. On Monday, Orlando, Fla., police reported two separate robberies near Lake Eola. Both times, multiple men took advantage of unsuspecting victims caught up in the app, stealing their belongings. While one had their phone stolen, the other was attacked by his assailants. In both cases, police gave statements telling players to take caution when using the app.
Pokémon Go tells players to stay aware of where they are while out hunting for their next catch, but these aren’t isolated incidents. There have also been many examples of the virtual characters leading to some pretty crazy stuff since it’s release. From players trolling the Westboro Baptist Church, to a player finding a dead body to just generally huge crowds. The game seems to inspire a level of stranger-to-stranger contact that’s almost unheard of for an app.
It isn’t without its critics though. Ezra Klein recently wrote a piece for Vox. In it, he describes how Pokémon Go is a glimpse into the future of augmented reality. “Pokémon Go came out of nowhere to blow away Tinder and rival Twitter for active users in about a week,” he writes. “[It’s] is a harbinger of things to come. We are being warned. By Pikachu.”
And herein lies the debate. While the app has quickly become the world’s most popular smartphone game ever, there are the naysayers. Many have pointed to these recent robberies as proof that it puts players at risk, but Klein goes further, saying it’s downright addictive. “How far are we until your VR life is far more interesting, far more pleasurable, than your real life? Not that far, I bet. Maybe 10 years. How far are we until your walk to work is better with augmented reality than without it? Well, Pokémon Go suggests we’re already there.”
“The easy analogy here is drugs. We know drugs are a cheap way for people… to escape to a (temporarily) more pleasurable [reality]. We’ve [stopped] that by making most recreational drugs illegal. But VR and AR are a consumer technology. We don’t make consumer technologies illegal. We celebrate them, write stories about them, improve them. And so they get better, more addictive, more alluring.”
Sure, this might seem weird to us now, but imagine how much cell phones have evolved in the past 10 years. It’s not ridiculous to suggest that technologies like augmented reality could become just as refined as we improve on them.
But there is a counter argument. And that is that Pokémon Go is the beginning of something very wonderful indeed – an era where Smartphones actually get strangers to talk to each other. Already Craigslist has received a large number of “missed connections” surrounding the virtual reality.
“You were wearing super cute stripey stockings and garters, I was wearing a black T-shirt and a necklace. The lure of Pokémon could not have been as strong as the attraction we both felt between us. It must have been fate, because just as I was stuck through the heart with Cupid’s Pokéball, the servers froze. Our connection to each other was broken as we scrambled around trying to find a signal. I lost you in the confusion of trying to get my game to load back up again. Perhaps if we find each other again you can add me to your Pokédex?” one reads.
So don’t think Pokémon Go is all bad. If you’re heading out to meet new people, get exercise or even just catch your 200th Pidgey, have a good time. Just be careful. Not even a Porygon is worth getting robbed over.