Pokemon Go, Privacy, and Capitalism

pokemon go players

When it was released in July 2016, Pokemon Go exploded in popularity amongst their target audience and then some. I was never a fan of Pokémon, but I understood the general premise of the game and know some of the characters and mechanics of their universe.

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game so people were walking around their neighborhoods in search of the pokemon they need/want. There were even safety concerns after people were found running into poles and cars because they were looking at their phones. Players were showing up at places they wouldn’t usually go just to “catch ‘em all”.

Because it was a mobile game that required so much cellular data to play, cell phone companies like Sprint used it as a major marketing tool. And it worked. People were buying new phones and service plans that were better equipped to play the game.

Because of such heavy marketing, everyone was talking about the game and that made it more popular. It was commonplace to see people playing it throughout 2016 and early 2017 but after then I think it became less common because people had less time to devote to it.

One of the major concerns that was brought up by critics of Pokémon go was that it required users to forfeit most of the private information on their phone regarding app data and location. The major tool of the game is location so GPS coordinates of players is easy to find. This made it dangerous for some, as several incidents of theft or bodily harm were reported to have been linked to players being traceable by other individuals. Of course, this means that the company who created the game, Niantic gets to store all of the precise locations of its users. Furthermore, Niantic reserves the rights to share the data it collects with third parties including potential buyers and law enforcement.

This is not uncommon for apps to do, but the huge success of the game made it a valid concern. Not to sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I believe that an important conversation could be had about how mobile video games are inadvertent (or intentional?) tools of capitalism and the police state. We’re having fun, but at what cost?



2 thoughts on “Pokemon Go, Privacy, and Capitalism

  1. I agree that this collection of personal information and data should be a concern, but not the extent that major corporations are using them to enforce a capitalistic dogma and/or a police state.


  2. I think the question you pose is certainly worth considering, especially seeing how game and the digital has been used in the military as a both an operational and a promotional tool. I think the idea of a police state, as @mikeandthegiant believes you’re referring to, is far-fetched, but given conversations that games like Blackbar have spurred about government censorship and surveillance, I think it’s worth discussing how our autonomy and agency exists in a world where information about ourselves exists on many platforms and effects how we move through society.


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