We know you’ve seen them. You might even be one of them.
Squads of kids, pockets of teenagers, roving hordes of young adults, battalions in business suits, all scouring our streets, neighborhoods and parks while glued to their cellphones. Right here in River City, it’s trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for . . . Pokémon?
We’ve come a long way from Robert Preston’s smooth-talking salesman in “The Music Man.” He sang of the corruptive power of the game of pool to get River City’s residents to buy musical instruments for their children. Now the Sturm und Drang surrounds Pokémon Go, a phone app released last week that’s turned the Nintendo classic into an insanely popular augmented reality game in which users catch charming little monsters that pop up on their phones as they travel the world. This summer’s obsession led to a $12 billion increase in Nintendo’s market value.
Dozens of players have eagerly converged on places from Argyle Lake in Babylon Village to downtown Port Jefferson. But not everyone is happy. There were clashes this week, real and virtual, as New York City players crowded east-west streets and blocked views of the sunset phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge.
To be sure, there are some real problems. Some thieves have used the app to lure victims to unsafe locations. Some mesmerized players have been robbed. Privacy concerns involving users forced to divulge personal information have been addressed. Now Pokémon Go’s inventors need to remove the monsters from solemn places like the Sept. 11 memorial, the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, and Arlington National Cemetery.
So, what to do? Wring our hands that we continue to be in thrall to our tech overlords, who now seem capable of orchestrating mass movement? Or put that power to good use by hiding the creatures in libraries, bookstores, historic sites — or polling places in November and hope players exercise their civic duty before resuming the hunt to catch ’em all. Wail about the pedestrian equivalent of texting while driving, worrying that someone pursuing Charmander or Ponyta will step into traffic or into a ditch? Or be grateful that millions of miles of walking exercise are being notched by the more than 21 million daily users.
As for the dangers, they’re best rectified by an ages-old prescription: Be smart, with a capital S.— The editorial board