Tuesday, March 26

Pokeman Go or No Go?


C_PC0015502NO Pokemon Go in the office – I dropped this reminder to our journalists’ Whatsapp Group.

Shortly after, I realised I could be sending a wrong message. It could be misread as our office not being a Pokestop that allows the players to reload their ammo like eggs and Poke Balls to capture more Pokemon creatures. So, I rephrased it: “Don’t play Pokemon Go in the office.”

For what it’s worth, this augmented reality game is driving everybody crazy. There are no laws pertaining to a ban on it, but I believe employees still need to be more productive instead of being obsessed with Pokemon Go. A gentle prompting not to abuse company time is, thus, timely.

Indeed, after Niantic, the developer of Pokemon Go announced the official launch of the game in Asia, including Malaysia, last week. The gamers welcome it but there are also many “angry people” who view the game as a nuisance.

In Cebu City, Philippines, Judge Yvonne Cabaron Artiaga of Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 3 put a warning on her office door on Thursday: “Lawyers and Litigants: There is no Pokemon in my chamber. I will use the full extent of my contempt power for any Pokemon-related disturbance. Knock at your own risk.”

Another warning posted on the podium inside her courtroom read: “Under pain of contempt, Pokemon catching inside the court is strictly prohibited. Justice may be blind but it can see Pokemon catchers. Violators will face fine and imprisonment.”

The judge issued the warnings after she noticed that people inside the courtroom were playing Pokemon Go on their mobile phones while the court was in session.

In Penang, St Anne’s Church has put up “No Pokemon” sign to stop the daily gatherings of gamers. The church administrative officer was quoted as saying at least 15 to 20 vehicles had entered the church grounds.

“We can identify our pilgrims and tourists, but these people did not belong to either category. It has become a nuisance.”

Pokemon Go has its advantages in that it compels the gamers to leave their homes and do some walking and exercise while other games glue them to their sitting rooms all day long. It is claimed Pokemon also allows family members and friends to do something together.

However, on the other hand, health-conscious joggers have found the parks jammed with gamers and it is no longer an enjoyable, obstacle-free, peaceful run for them.

In Taiwan, nearly 350 drivers were reportedly slapped with fines for playing on their phones after Pokemon Go was launched on the island just 24 hours earlier.

Playing Pokemon Go while driving not only puts the gamer’s life in danger but also those of others.

In Brazil, police are investigating the possibility of a nine-year-old drowning in a river while playing Pokemon Go. Media reports said the boy, together with another boy of same age, were hunting Pokemon monsters.

Several countries have issued safety warnings after players who were glued to their phones, stumbled, were robbed or wandered into dangerous places.

Pokemon Go or No Go?

There should be a limit to it – like all other TV games. Psychiatrists have raised concerns, warning of  players getting addicted and causing problems for themselves and those nearby.

As usual, whatever new that comes to this land of ours will inevitably be turned into political and religious issues. There are heated arguments whether the game is “haram” (forbidden) and whether it should be banned. There are even unabated discussion about whether the game is permissible in Islam.

Amidst all the dinsome political and religious argy bargy, Perlis Mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin said something sensible – that there are a lot of other foolish things that lead to stupidity and danger that people seem to ignore.

Dr Asri reminded people not to be so engrossed talking about the game that they forgot about more harmful and foolish things happening around them.

“I stress here don’t play or do anything, including playing Pokemon Go, if it’s something which dumbs you down or endangers yourself or society.

“Don’t be so engrossed in the game that we forget everything else around us, and don’t be so engrossed in discussing about whether Pokemon Go is permissible that we forget the graver dangers around us and existing matters which further dumb us down.

“I find it strange that someone who smokes in public can speak of that danger of Pokemon Go… and those who misuse public property are preoccupied with this game while forgetting the game of misappropriation and bad governance that is ruining the nation,” he said in a statement.

The CEO of the country apparently is over excited about the Pokemon too, that he announced computational thinking and computer science skills will be integrated in the curricula for both primary and secondary schools starting from 2017 under a #mydigitalmaker movement on Thursday.

“I want the children to think and dream big and become digital makers who can contribute to the country’s digital economy,” he said.

I counted, it is only another four months to next academic year. How well are we prepared to introduce an approach where students in Primary one, secondary one and secondary four students will be taught computer science concepts such as coding? Will we be able to train our teachers to integrate computational thinking and computer science into the classroom in such a short time?

There are reports that digital hubs will be located all over the nation to enable students to pick up skills from programming kits and 3D printing machines  to help turn their ideas into creations.

These are all great thoughts and move – l am not pouring ice  water – but in the rural towns of Sarawak getting connected to the Internet is still a dream!

It is a big dream to transform Pokemon gamers to makers in the digital economy – that will be an addition to their addiction. But, first, let our ministers differentiate between “addition” and “addiction”.

My friend David who loves fishing, posted a picture of himself beaming a sunny smile beside his catch, inserted a pokemon in the picture and with a big cross over it and the caption: “Jangan tangkap pokemon, tangkap snapper.”

Indeed, catch something useful, talk sensibly, care more for the more important things in life.