Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

Before you catch them all: Pokemon Go safety and privacy

Ways to Subscribe

The franchise that stormed into pop culture in the 1990s has been re-energized as a mobile app that allows players to find Pikachu and others in the real world.

Do you "want to be the very best, like no one ever was?"

That's the opening line of the theme for the original "Pokémon," the creature-catching video game that debuted on the handheld Nintendo GameBoy system 20 years ago that sparked a craze where the phrases like "gotta catch 'em all" and "It's super effective" weaved their way into the pop culture lexicon.

Now the fictional creatures have found their way onto another handheld device this weekend: Your smartphone. "Pokemon Go" is an augmented-reality mobile game, where a combination of your phone's GPS and some graphical mapping to depict where you are in the game world enables you to physically track down, in the real world, the various Pokémon that pop up around you. 

This has inspired masses of people to find Pokémon wherever they are, be it the office, the back yard, the park or anywhere else one can pop up ... like various spots in Southern California.

Here to break down the craze and it's cultural impact is Justin Haywald, managing editor at Gamespot.

Interview highlights

Tell us a little bit about the 'augmented reality' aspect of Pokémon Go.

"This is the first mobile game from Nintendo in a long time, and it uses the Pokémon franchise, something that a lot of people I think are familiar with, and allows you to catch these creatures in the real world. The augmented reality aspect is something that adds a little bit to it ... it's a fun way to put these Pokémon in the world around you. You're able to use your camera and maybe put it on your friend's shoulder or you can see a Pokémon hiding behind a couch. But it's also something you can turn off if you want to be a little more discreet, say if you're playing on a bus ir playing on a train, so it's something that adds to the experience but isn't completely part of the experience."

How long did it take for Pokémon Go to get to everyone?

"The developer used to work at Google. They're a company called Niantic, and they made a game called 'Ingress' which was wildly popular and has worldwide fans, people that are still playing it. They left Google a couple of years ago, and last year they announced that they were working with Nintendo on a Pokémon go game, which is very similar to 'Ingress.' This was announced about 10 months ago, so a pretty quick turnaround for what's become a phenomenal success."

What are some of the safety concerns?

"I think, like with any mobile device, when you get immersed in a game, when you get immersed in anything, even if you're checking your email or you're reading something on your phone, it can create a lot of distraction, and you'll see that around here too. That's always a dangerous way to approach any app. For playing Pokémon, it's good to stop and assess your surroundings ... don't be so immersed in this, use common sense with where you're going and paying attention to the world around you. Some of the dangers I think we've run into are people who are so distracted by what's on their phone whether it'd be the Pokémon app or anything else they're paying attention to that they might walk out into traffic or stumble on something."

Haywald also talked about some privacy concerns around Pokémon Go, as well as its how its immense and sudden popularity has impacted Nintendo.

Click on the blue play button above to listen to the full interview.

This post has been updated.

Stay Connected