Nintendo’s new journey into the Pokémon universe, Pokémon Go, is already dictating people’s lives just 24 hours after it was released.
Yesterday, Nintendo rolled out the new Pokémon app for iPhone to Asia and Australia, and over the next couple of days it will be slowly rolled out worldwide. The app uses GPS, letting you interact with (and catch) Pokémon, which are integrated into your “real-world view” via your phone's camera.
As is the case with most iPhone games, it requires you to spend a lot of time with your head down, and there's a warning before the game even boots up that tells you to stay alert.
BuzzFeed News spoke to users about how the game had already begun controlling their lives. Most of the reviews so far have been positive, but several mention addiction.
“It's taking over my life,” Australian Richie Cartmell said.
“Yesterday instead of taking a lunch break I just walked around catching Pokémon for 30 minutes.
“Then I purposefully missed my train so I could walk around Flagstaff gardens and get more Pokémon. Then I went for a 25-minute walk in the rain as there weren't any Pokémon around my house and I needed to level up and get some more poké balls from the landmarks.”
Cartmell estimated he had already played for two to three hours and walked 6.66km with the app open.
He had tried using the app on public transport but noticed the servers would crash. Cartmell drew the line at driving while playing. “Nah,” he said, “I'd crash if I spotted [a Pokémon].”
Australia’s Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services sent out a warning to Pokémon Go players yesterday, warning them to look “away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street”.
“That Sandshrew isn’t going anywhere fast,” it said.
Of the people polled by BuzzFeed News, few seemed concerned about leaving their house late at night, or the odd looks they might get for playing the game in public.
“I went out for a walk at 9pm with a good friend to catch Pokémon because of Pokémon Go,” said Perth resident Adam Rida.
Rida said he had no regrets about the late-night stroll, and would probably do it again. “I think we're going to go into the city on the weekend with the specific purpose of seeing what Pokémon will be there,” he said.
“My mother jokingly thought that I was trying to get drugs because she knows I hate walking that much.”
Some people are going so far as to drive to locations specifically so that they can battle and challenge Pokémon gyms.
Harrison Forth, also from Brisbane, spoke about the lengths he went to to beat a gym last night.
“I drove to my nearest Pokémon Go gym, which was near a bar,” he said. “I parked in the carpark, sat in my car, beat the gym, and drove home.”
Forth said that while he didn't regret the 10-minute drive, he certainly “was not proud of it”.
Pokémon Go is also affecting people's productivity at work, with many users saying the lure of catching more Pokémon was sometimes too much to resist.
Dan Nolan, from Sydney, said Pokémon Go was dictating his schedule.
“I purposefully moved a meeting with a client to next week so I could play more yesterday,” he said.
Radio announcer Lindsay Harapa said she was playing Pokémon Go “at home, at work, and while my husband is driving”.
“I was lucky enough to be the passenger in the car last night, which meant I could catch heaps of Pokémon while we were stuck in traffic,” she said. “I also may have been wandering around our unit block like a weirdo late last night to see what was around.”
As Pokémon Go rolls out worldwide there's no telling the lengths people will go to to catch 'em all.