Local Goa News

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yellow fever: Goa catches the Pokemon bug

Panaji : A recent change in the local boys' riding habits had surprised Tonca resident Kiran Saxena quite a bit. Instead of zipping past recklessly, they've been crawling by at 20km/hour with their smartphones in hand. Little did she realise that they have been bitten by the latest bug in town and were catching Bulbasaurs, Ekans and Zubats on their phones, with the Pokemon Go fever having spread to Goa.

For the uninitiated, Pokemon Go is a GPS-based augmented reality mobile game based on a Japanese cartoon series from the 1990s. Developed by US software company Niantic in association with Nintendo - the popular gaming consoles manufacturer, it was released in at least 26 countries including UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand last week. Official download figures went through the roof in days and the game has already beaten Twitter and Tinder in terms of daily engagement and app installs.
The high volume of downloads and increasing number of players caused servers to crash and forced Niantic to postpone launches in other countries till they had improved infrastructure. Only last week, New York's Central Park witnessed a near stampede as hundreds of people flocked there after a rare Pokemon named Vaporeon was spotted in the area.
The game has not been officially rolled out in India, but nothing could keep Pokemon enthusiasts away from their favourite game. Players have been altering the security settings on their smartphones to download a cracked version of the game.
The augmented reality game requires players to walk around outdoors with the camera and the internet connection on their phone switched on. As their movements are tracked, Pokemon characters pop up in their surroundings. They have to then hit the creatures with Pokeballs to add them to their collection.
"The game still has some glitches but I think those will be sorted once the official version rolls out here," says Rahul Rivoncar from Miramar, who is organising a Pokewalk in the state capital on August 7 along with his friend Pranay Purohit, who runs an event management company. A Pokewalk is an opportunity for players to gather at a spot and hunt for Pokemons as they walk along a fixed route.
The duo expect at least 400 people from across the state to gather at Kala Academy to hunt for Pokemons in Panaji and say they won't be surprised if double the number turn up. According to the Facebook page - Pokemon Go-A Adventure - at least 500 people are interested in the event.
Panaji has at least ten known Pokestops where players can get eggs that hatch to produce Pokemons as they walk around, collect points to progress to advanced levels of the game, and of course, to catch Pokemons. "There are Pokestops at Miramar beach, Panaji church, the British graveyard near Dona Paula, Kala Academy and Campal Ground," rattles off Rivoncar, even as his phone shows there are at least five Pokemons he can find close to where he is standing near the Cafe Coffee Day outlet on D B Bandodkar Marg.
"Some players have even travelled as far as Colva, Mapusa and Candolim to collect the toon characters," he said. The game is adjusted to the local terrain, meaning players are more likely to catch water Pokemon near beaches and grass ones closer to forests.
"I had no intentions to visit the Panaji church when I was in the city. But decided to drop in when I saw there was a Pokestop there," said Shrey Shubham, a project engineer with Wipro in Chennai, who had been visiting Goa over the weekend. He managed to catch an Ekans and a Zubat in the 15 minutes that he was there.
Even the poor condition of mobile internet connectivity in the state has done little to deter players. "You can spot at least ten people playing the game on their phones if you go the Miramar beach in the evening," says Purohit.
Duncan Rodrigues, 22, a Margao resident says, "I have been a Pokemon fan since childhood, and I love the interactive platform the game offers in its present form. There have been instances where I don't know a person by face, but recognize them by their virtual identity as a Pokemon trainer."
Such is the craze that 18-year-old Theresa Fernandes from Benaulim walked into a wall and banged her head as she went about playing Pokemon on her phone, outside her residence.
While it is necessary that players walk around to progress in the game, wily ones have already figured out ways to cheat and level-up faster. "A friend of mine tied his phone to a fan rotating on very low speed to hoodwink the system," confessed Shubham.
If reports are to be believed, the amount of walking around outdoors the game requires has prompted people to get up from their chairs and out of their houses in pursuit of the popular cartoon characters.
Senior psychiatrist at Mapusa' north district hospital Dr Rajesh Dhume says, "This new virtual reality game Pokemon Go is going to be another mental, physical and social health problem to deal with," and adds that at the Mumbai airport on Monday he saw children wandering aimlessly looking at their phones while parents were busy in their own conversations.
"I gather that world over people are already falling and injuring themselves in this hunt. The interactive game is not yet available in India, but our children have got the app and are playing it. It is a mad craze," he says maintaining that he fears the senseless wandering will increase, as will road accidents. "Given the conditions of our roads and potholes, traffic sense and jams it's a disaster waiting to happen. Mobile usage during driving and crossing roads is already costing us valuable young lives. To add to it is this new craze."
"Parents be aware and please teach children some ground rules of playing this game and some mobile etiquette," he advices.
But as of now, for what it's worth, Goans are following the trend - after all, you have to catch them all!

TOI Goa News

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