Pikachu goes to Washington: Is ‘Pokemon Go’ a fun new craze, or proof we’ve all gone mad?

Somehow or another the decades old game Pokemon is back as the new smartphone app “Pokemon Go” becomes the next big craze causing players to leave their homes and offices and to go out into the real world on a e-scavenger hunt. And Pokemon game is no less hitting Washington D.C. as it is everywhere else. But is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or just a thing, thing?

So, what IS this “Pokemon Go”? The game sends users out into the real world armed with their smart phones equipped with its camera app and GPS tracking software to find new creatures (the Pokemon) lurking around waiting to be “captured.” The player follows the maps in the game to real-world locations where one of the Pokemon are hiding and uses the cell phone’s camera to “find” the hiding creature. Once found they can be captured and added to the player’s collection.

There is an array of other things the camera app will find once the user gets to the right GPS location, as well. And eventually players will congregate at a “Pokemon gym” where their Pokemon can engage in battles for points. Players in D.C. and around the country have been burning up social media bragging about the number of Pokemon they have collected or sharing tips and locations.

For most it has all been good fun, and apparently a big hit with the game app already surpassing 7.5 million downloads, according to AdWeek.com.

The game has all of Washington D.C. hopping as staffers and even a Congressman or two get involved in the game, as The Hill reports.

Congressional staffers and D.C. residents are swarming all over some of Washington’s iconic places searching for their next Pokemon acquisition. Players are skulking around such places as the Theodore Roosevelt bust, Helen Keller statue or the Cannon tunnel on their hunt.

Even lawmakers are in on the craze, though some are using the game to flog pet legislative issues. Take Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) who was seen needling her Republican colleagues for eschewing new gun control measures.

“Anyone else on #PokemonGO? I’ve found a #Squirtle & a #Pikachu in DC, but I’m still looking for a Republican willing to vote on #NoFlyNoBuy,” the Congresswoman tweeted taking all the fun out of the game.

But Congress, the Senate, and other historic sites aren’t the only places Pokemon has touched as recent game news has revealed that there are Pokemon players even in the White House.

Gaming website Kotaku already reported on the first Pokemon creature found in the White House and that isn’t all. The game now lists the President’s residence as a Pokemon gym.

The first to take the White House was apparently a 28-year-old man named Jesus Rodriguez. The young man said he decided to be the first to win the White House challenge as soon as he heard it was on. “I download the app as soon as it was available on the app store and got to work,” Rodriguez told the game site.

The young man’s perch as tops at the White House gym, though, was short-lived as a series of players have battled for preeminence.

Regardless, the game is widespread in the capital city, so much so that Larry O’Connor over at HotAir.com quipped that in just a month “Pokemon Go” has sent more kids and young people out to exercise in the real world than First Lady Michelle Obama has been able to do in eight years with her school exercise program debacle.

But others are warning of the dangers associated with the game.

Some police departments and other agencies, for instance, are warning players not to play the cell phone-based game while driving to the next GPS location. The Washington State Department of Transportation, for one, warned drivers, “No Pokemoning from behind the wheel.

And according to GameStop.com, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has also warned drivers away from PWD, Pokemoning While driving.

Apparently the game is far more effective in cities, though, and players in rural areas are upset that they aren’t being included as much.

Still others worry about the amount of personal data being freely given up to play the game. The folks at tech website Cnet.com warn that if you’ve set up your Pokemon game with your Google account you may have handed all your personal data right over to the game developers.

“We recently discovered that the Pokémon GO account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account,” Niantic Labs, the company selling the game, said in a statement. “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.”

Is “Pokemon Go” just a fun new craze, or proof that we’ve all gone mad?


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