July 24, 2016: A sizeable group of youths with cellphones in hand was spotted near a multiplex in Pune’s Kothrud searching for something around 2.30am on Friday.
Soon, officials of the Alankar police station got wind of the ‘unusual gathering’. They rushed there only to stumble upon the virtual world of Pokemons. They left with heads shaking after bundling the youths off to their homes.
Another location near the Chittaranjan Vatika in Model Colony had a large gathering on Friday evening with teenagers and youths glued to their cellphones. Rumours went viral that a rare Poke mon was spotted in the area and everybody wanted it.
On Saturday evening, pedestrians on the busy Fergusson College Road were taken aback when a group of youths suddenly came whizzing on their bikes near a burger outlet, again with cellphones in hand. Apparently a Pokemon shop was located there! The city streets have been buzzing at odd hours with teenagers and youths competing with the bats and owls.Police on night patrol now not only have to keep thieves and burglars at bay but also have to shoo away the Pokemon-crazy youths. The Pokemon fever climbed a notch higher with a plan for Pokemon walks (Pokewalks) on Sunday for enthusiasts to come together and play against each other.But the city police were not impressed with the frenzy about an augmented virtual game and refused permission to any of the walks.
A senior police officer said officers on night patrolling had been spotting teenagers with cellphones late in the night these days. “Initially, we did not realize what they were searching for with their cellphones. But soon we were told that they were playing some virtual game,” the officer said.
“So far, there has been no law and order issue related to this game but what if something happens late in the night, like robbery? Anything can happen if these youngsters continue to visit isolated areas,” the officer said. Teenagers and youths can be spotted riding bikes with one hand on the accelerator and another tapping smart phones.”The youths are playing with their lives,” the officer said.
Pokemon Go is an augmented virtual reality game, based on the cartoon series Pokemon -a craze among 90s kids. There have been advertisements on Facebook about various pokewalks to be organized in the city . Individuals have been coming together in groups to search for pokemons.Some students have even been downloading the old Cartoon Network series or watching it online in hostels to renew knowledge about the game.
Paris Shrikhande, one of the three organizers of the pokewalk, said, “We had organized a walk on FC Road on Sunday morning. But when we approached the police, we were denied permission. We even went to the collector’s office to get permission, but they also denied it. Now, we have officially backed out of the plan and posted on Facebook about the cancellation. But people who have failed to log in to Facebook on Saturday may still turn up.”
Paris is on level 16 of the game.
An official from the Deccan police station said, “It is impossible to give permission for such an event, especially in a place where there can be a traffic problem. Many people may turn up, causing a law and order problem, not to mention the traffic and parking problems. Hence, we have denied permission on FC road.”
Sayeel Talaulikar, another Pokemon enthusiast working for a digital marketing firm and on level 7 with about 150 pokemons, said, ” After level 5, we can choose our teams -basically red, yellow and blue. That is when the battle starts. A pokemon catcher is called trainer and a place where the battle happens is called gym. Two trainers battle to win the gym, which turns into the colour of the person winning the battle.There are a total of 21levels but I am not sure if anyone here has reached that level.”
Explaining the craze, Jasin Sidharthan, a third year geology student at Fergusson College, said, “Virtual reality is where you enter a whole new virtual world. It has its merit but it is not as good as augmented reality , where virtual creatures can be seen in the real world through your mobile screens. It makes you feel exclusive because only people who have downloaded the game can see it. Even the most boring premises like a bus stop become exciting because there can be a pokemon there.”
Jasin is on level 4, but plans to go to the FC meetup of the pokemon players in the hope of finding more pokemons.
Amruta Prabhu, an educator and former principal at Lexicon International School, said till the game was officially launched, there cannot be any advisories from any board. “In most schools, cellphones are banned. There is no chance of students playing it in school.But I think it is in the parent’s hands to make sure a child is not harmed in any way because of this game.”
The Social Monks Entertainment, a start-up based in Pune founded by Bhawan Kalra, Rohini Joshi and Piyush Malhotra, has decided to capitalize on this new found craze and organize Pokemon themed nights called pokenights.
“People registering with us have been split among the region as per their choice. The participants will be playing in private places where we have tie-ups. We shall distribute gifts to them. We shall also organize pokenights in clubs and hotels with which we have tied up. Social Monks does not promote any activities or events, including gathering, assembling, forming a group or opinion, about a place, thing or subject for this pokewalk in India,” said Bhawan Kalra.
ByÂ Ardhra Nair and Gitesh Shelke