One of the largest MMORPG’s to ever be released exploded onto the scene last week. No I’m not talking about the latest expansion to World of Warcraft, I’m talking about Pokémon Go! The augmented reality live action roleplaying game, yep, you’re LARP’n; from Niantic. Niantic is a spinoff of Google parent company Alphabet that is also responsible for the AR game Ingress.
Shortly after Pokémon Go launched there was a thread a mile long on Reddit about a middle aged white guy that had a chance encounter with two younger black men at 3am. Turns out the three of them became best friends for life and then even recruited a cop to play the game. It appears the thread has been removed and while the sentiment remains, this is a great social experiment that can hopefully be inclusive of all people, there are still a few things you should know before you get started.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Pay attention to where you are going.
- Maintain situation awareness.
- Look both ways before you cross the street.
- And finally: Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
For every heartwarming story that is unfortunately debunked there turns out to be an equally ruthless story that is all too real. While Pokémon Go might augmentedly take you to a place that is better than the real world you are still very much grounded in the real world. A local group of teenagers not far from where I live in St. Charles county Missouri took advantage of this opportunity exploited it for their gain. They made targets of those participating in this joyful exploration for their criminal gain.
These four creatons knew of Pokémon Go and quickly realized that people would be drawn to Poke Stops. They staked out semi isolated stops and waited for poor distracted Pokémon Go players to show up and robbed them at gun point. These teens were also found to have robbed people that weren’t just playing Pokémon Go but the distracted nature of Nintendo’s augmented reality experiment made those playing the game easy prey.
Pokémon Go has introduced a new danger to your typical MMORPG player, the outside. So consider the following your Pokémon Go Survival Guide.
If you are going to wander the streets in the middle of the night wear light colored clothing.
Those things that travel across roads are cars, trucks, motorcycles, and sometimes busses. Chances are they don’t want to stop for you. If you step out in front of them they probably wouldn’t be able to even if they did.
If it is furry and running around and you can see it not just through your phone it is probably an animal, not a Pokémon. Don’t throw balls at it. Chances are you’ll piss them off and get bit.
Don’t wander into bodies of water. The summer time is notorious for thunderstorms. What you think is a small creek now could quickly swell into rapids that will wash you away in the current.
If you get busted playing Pokémon Go at work you may not have a work to go back to. How are you going to buy Poke balls then? Work at work and leave Pokémon Go for break time. Or have really good situational awareness and know where your boss is at all times.
If you are walking down a dark street at night look up from time to time. Maintain your situational awareness. No Eevee is worth getting mugged over.
Much like with a can of Pringles, sometimes you just have to let those hard to reach Pokémon go.
P.S. After I turned this column in I stumbled across an interesting bit of news. If you use Google to log into Pokémon Go you have granted the app unlimited access to your Google account. YouTube, Gmail, GDrive, if its attached to your Google account Pokémon GO has access to it. It would have been nice if we were given some type of warning about this huh? What reason could Pokémon Go need access to our Gmail or YouTube account? Well that’s a good question and the answer is absolutely nothing. I’d recommend you log into your Google account and remove the permissions from Pokémon Go immediately if you have any type of security concerns. This is easy to do. You can log into your Google account and click on my account. Then look under Sign-in & security. On the desktop site you should see connected apps & sites. From there you can remove Pokémon Go. Beware though if you log back into Pokémon Go with Google it will restore all those privileges. You’ll need to create a trainer account to work around this. I’m not sure if this will cause you to lose your saved data or not. I’m surprised this made it through testing and I think it’s lazy that Niantic has the permissions set this way when it involves security. It really raises concerns that if they cut a corner here, where else did they cut corners when it comes to user security?
Editor's Note: After this article had been written, complete with its PS, a statement was issued by Niantic:
"We recently discovered that the Pokémon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user's Google account," The Pokémon Company and Niantic explained in a joint statement.
"However, Pokémon Go only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected.
"Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access.
"Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon GO or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO's permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves."