By Maulana Khalid Dhorat
If your life is not already filled with something constructive and fulfilling, then you will fall for the latest fads and madness that this deceptive physical world or the imaginary digital world has to offer. Games like Candy Crush Saga (a tile matching game), 10000000 (fighting bad guys and repairing your castle), Triple Town (building your own city) and Crazy Kitchen (food themed competitions) will occupy your day and night, rob you off your precious time and lead to many other relationship, economic and social complications in life.
The latest of these fads is a revival of the old Pokémon game of the late 1990’s devised by the Japanese company Nintendo, now called “Pokémon Go” but with two enhanced features:
1) The first catch is that the game is free. Millions in the western world where normally such frivolous gadgets and programmes originate from, have already downloaded it and are hooked on it. These include ought-to-be mature professionals like auditors, doctors, journalists, lawyers and engineers too. Offering anything for free is an enticement to sample the product without any commitment. When people innocently downloads it for a short while, or just out of curiosity, they are instantly hooked. It’s just like how drug peddlars deceptively offer people a small dose of drugs via a sweet or a cake. Once hooked, you are a customer for life. The game uses the same idea. Nintendo, the gaming company, then makes money in other ways from the consumer. In this case, it is by charging service providers data usage and by enticing gaming addicts to buy extra virtual pokémons with real money to enhance their game at places called “PokéStops”.
Remember that there is always something to pay for anything free.
2) The more alarming feature of this game is that it’s in a simulated reality mode (known as “augmented reality”). In simple terms, Pokémon Go is a game that uses your mobile phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the world. It then causes virtual pokémons to suddenly “appear” around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of pokémons will appear, depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch as much pokémons as possible in the game. These pokémons vary in colour, shape and size. Pokémons near water will have watery features, whilst those in your bedroom will be more cuddly. Pokémons in a mall will look like money, in a restaurant they will resemble food, whilst those in a war zone will be dressed as soldiers.
As is evident, the game acts as an excellent tracking device too which compromises your safety and your privacy too. The craze for collecting all types of pokémons actually leads one to weird places indoors like within cupboards, on top of one’s roof or under one’s blankets. It can also lead you outdoors for no reason at all, and can be a huge distraction in public spaces – much more dangerous than just chatting on one’s cellphone. Now, one will be intently glued to a screen, not knowing where you are walking, how you are driving or where you have landed. You will be no more greeting and chatting to real people made of flesh and bones and covered in clothing in the world, but picking up and bagging, maybe even fighting with virtual characters that would make you appear as a total zombie and a complete social misfit.
Although the outcome of these games are always disastrous on many counts, but historically many of them have taken the world by storm. Mankind, it seems, seems to be progressing in their mistakes, not learning from them. And now Pokémon Go has beaten them all and set new records. You may have heard stories of people maniacally hunting down imaginary Pokémon on their office desks, in hospital rooms, and even in bathrooms. One teenage girl even found a dead body while looking for a Pokémon in a park! It’s so popular that it’s now competing with Twitter in terms of daily active users on Android.
So why are people who catch pokémon fever going wild seeking out virtual creatures while at work and as they go to the bathroom? The answer to this is that the designers have programmed the game in such a way so as to detach one from the reality of the present world, to make one forget of one’s purpose in life, and to transport you to another make-believe fantastic world. This world is populated by exotic, powerful monsters – they can look like rats, snakes, dragons, dinosaurs, birds, eggs, trees, and even swords. In this world, people called “trainers” travel around the globe to tame these creatures and, in an ethically questionable manner, and use them to fight against each other.
The games first took the world by storm in the late 1990s – a big fad widely known as “Pokémania.” The original handheld games, Pokémon Red and Blue, came out in 1998 in America, followed by Yellow in 1999 and Gold and Silver in 2000. With the games came spinoffs like Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Pinball in 1999, a popular TV show, movies, trading cards, and a lot of other merchandise. But customers get bored and move on to other fads, so what if pokémons are real and inhabited our world? Unfortunately, pokémons aren’t real, but technology has evolved to be able to simulate a world in which they appear to be real.
For one, the way you navigate the world is obviously different. In the old handheld games, you simply use a controller to move around the in-game world the developers have made. In Pokémon Go, you have to travel around the real word. What’s more, the game makes you explore your real-world environment at different times. For example, if you go out to a park, you’ll probably see more grass- or bug-type pokémons, and if you go out at night, you’ll see more nocturnal fairy and ghost types.
Another huge change from the old version is the combat style. When catching pokémons, you don’t fight them with your own team of pokémons. Instead, the battle is between you and the creature directly: You swipe to throw a Poké Ball — the device used to capture Pokémon — in their direction, which then catches them. In fact, there’s no traditional Pokémon battles in the game at all. When you fight gym leaders and other trainers, you don’t set up your team of six with four moves each and select among those four moves to outsmart your opponent, as you do in the handheld games. Instead, battles are largely decided by your Pokémon’s combat power. You simply tap the screen to attack the enemy while swiping to dodge enemy attacks. A lot of the strategy is gone.
Much more can be said of this big time waste, but in conclusion, attach your heart to Allah Ta’ala – the Ever Living, our Sustainer and Cherisher. When we sleep, He is awake, when we are unconscious, He is awake. He is awake in all situations. Let’s not be like the mythical pokémons or become attached to screen phantoms. As soon as the battery goes flat, they all disappear.