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With success comes … robberies? 10 side effects of ‘Pokémon Go’s’ popularity

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It may only be a week old, but Pokémon Go seems to be a bonafide phenomenon. And with epic popularity and lots of people having tons of fun, there’s always the dark side. The unforeseen consequences. The unfortunate side-effects.

Pokémon Go has its downsides, too. They include discovering bodies and catching Pokemon in some pretty somber places. The game has racked up a pretty impressive list of weirdo things happening around it in a short time, ranging from the unfortunate to the disturbing, many of which were (mostly) impossible to predict. Here are top 10 sad and strange ways Pokémon Go has gone bad.

It’ll make your legs hurt

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Exercise. Not normally associated with video games, millions of people playing Pokémon Go are finding they have to go outside to do it. The fun part of the idea — finding Pokémon in the real world — is also the most tiring, because you actually have to go hunt those Pokémon. It’s even worse in rural areas, where Pokéstops, or real-world locations that give in-game items, are few and far between, sometimes requiring players to travel miles to find one. On top of that, Pokémon eggs are gathered in game and require walking to hatch, some as much as 10 kilometers in distance. And there’s no cheating: the game is smart enough to know when you’re moving at the speed of a car or a train. On the upside, you’re basically training for that 5K you keep putting off.

It could get you robbed

That’s what happened to Pokémon Go players in O’Fallon, Missouri. Over the first weekend after the game’s release, a lot of people found themselves playing at night; the time of day affects which Pokémon you might find, and with fewer people playing, developer Niantic’s overtaxed servers seem to run a lot better. But some clever crooks used the nighttime draw of Pokémon to their advantage. According to police, using Pokémon Go, suspects watched for other players to use “lures” at Pokéstops in secluded locations late at night, and then robbed them. Police arrested four suspects, including a juvenile, but lesson learned: Be careful when you Pokémon alone at night.

It might lead you to dead bodies

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The thing about Pokémon Go is the cute little creatures within it come from a variety of biomes, and so if you search for them in a park, you’ll find different ones than if you search in a desert, or near a body of water. So the game might draw you to places off the beaten path in order to find new PokéPrey, like it did 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins in rural Wyoming. Looking to grab a water Pokémon from near the Big Wind River, she stumbled on something else: a man’s body. Police say they believe the death to be accidental. Staying in populated areas when looking for Pokémon is probably a good idea.

It could help a hate group create awful propaganda

"Train up a child in the way he should go: when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Same goes for #Pokemon!

— Westboro Baptist (@WBCSaysRepent) July 12, 2016

The purveyors of generalized bigoted terribleness who find a home at the Westboro Baptist Church aren’t exactly subtle, so when they discovered that the Pokémon gym at their church had been overtaken by a Clefairy by the name of LoveIsLove, they did what they do best: created bigoted, kind of stupid propaganda. To rage at the happiness of gay people, Pokémon-style, they chose Jigglypuff, another pink, generally balloon-like Pokémon, for some reason. Anyway, cool as Pokémon Go has been in getting people outside, walking around and meeting other players, it’s good to remember that there are still awful people in the world, and they apparently have some idea what a Jigglypuff is.

It might cause you to offend Holocaust survivors

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Look, just because you can play Pokémon Go just about anywhere doesn’t mean you should play Pokemon Go just about anywhere. That includes the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, which is asking people to stop playing the game there, because, you know, it is disrespectful as hell. Like many other landmarks in many other cities, the Holocaust Museum has a Pokéstop associated with it. Unlike many other landmarks in many other cities, there are actually three Pokéstops at the museum, associated with different parts of it — so people are actually going inside to play, which is a little messed up.

It is also not the first time developer Niantic has run into similar troubles. Pokémon Go sources all of its location data from the Niantic’s last game, Ingress, and Ingress got much of its info from using Google Maps to find spots where people gather. Spots like memorials in Europe that used to be Nazi concentration camps. Niantic removed those spots for Ingress, so it’ll probably do the same for the Holocaust Museum and Pokémon Go. Eventually.

It can cause you to rage-quit your job

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More than one image and story has popped up on social media in the last few days from employees who claim their bosses are none too happy about their Pokémon-hunting at work. Some people have gotten warnings against wasting all their time running around their offices, catching whatever Pokémon would be boring enough to hang out in offices (maybe Klefki?). Others, like Australian gamer Sonny Truyen, who lives in Singapore, were enraged by the game’s poor performance (although technically it doesn’t work in Singapore for anyone, but hey, we’re pretty frustrated in the States too). Truyen expressed his disapproval for Singapore’s Pokémon-free nature on Facebook, and by loudly and combatively disparaging the country, got himself fired by his company. Don’t play Pokémon Go at work, but if you do, remember to do breathing exercises to keep your server woes-induced rage in check, and stay Poké-incognito.

It might leave you lovelorn

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Pokémon Go is surprisingly social — despite the fact that everyone playing is mostly staring at their own phone and trying to catch creatures invisible to anyone who’s not also staring at their phone, it has players meeting each other at real-world Pokéstops all over the country. And it seems a lot of people are making a connection with one another, but then losing one another in the hustle to run off and catch more of ’em all. As the Chicago Tribune reports, Craigslist is inundated with “missed connection” ads from all over the country. Pokémon Go is both the facilitator and the destroyer of potential love connections.

It might cause you to creep out homeowners

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It’s fun when Pokémon Go locations like Pokéstops and gyms are local businesses where people congregate. Coffee shops, restaurants, book stores, churches — these places benefit from the increased attention and social presence created by the game. On the other hand, it is not so great if the place where a Pokéstop or a gym lands is your front yard. Boon Sheridan is living in this potential Pokémon hell, with people stopping in front of his house (a former church, some 40 years ago) to play the game at all hours. Sounds innocuous enough, but if you lived there, having people awkwardly stopping by your house could be troubling, especially if you didn’t know about it. On the other hand, for people of color, awkwardly stopping in front of houses to play the game could potentially be dangerous.

It might drive you to look at Poké-porn

Yes, Pokémon porn is a thing. Don’t pretend you hadn’t guessed. But with the release of Pokémon Go, searches for pocket monsters doing naughty things has rising pretty significantly, according to porn website Pornhub. And it seems especially true that Pokémon porn is corrupting young adult men: Pornhub says 18- to 24-year-olds are 336 percent more likely to look up Pokémon porn than any other group, and men are 62 percent more likely to search for Pokémon porn than women. At the same time, another trend seems to be forming: Pokémon Go nude photos are being shared online and between people. What’s in store for the future of our nation with young people’s understanding of sex is so totally warped by cute cartoon creatures?

It might ruin the economy


Is there a Chicken Little Pokémon? If there is, you’ll likely find it at Vox, where a compelling case is made for Pokémon Go being a sign of the times of capitalism getting bad for everyone. The gist is this: used to be, when people borrowed money from banks to start businesses, they invested in actual things that produced jobs. The digital economy Pokémon Go represents doesn’t really make anything (you’re only buying virtual stuff like Pokéballs and lures with your hard-earned cash, should you choose to pay money into the free-to-play game), and it doesn’t create a lot of jobs. Becoming the very best might be great for you and our Pokémon-addled brain, but maybe it’s bad for the country. Bummer.

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Phil Hornshaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Phil Hornshaw is an author, freelance writer and journalist living in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of The Space Hero's…
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