LAHORE: Have you seen people staring at their phones, trying to capture small creatures and running blindly into traffic? If yes, they must be playing Pokemon GO! Pokemon GO is the latest name for the famous Pokemon video game series. The game has become very popular and is being discussed worldwide, despite being officially released only in Australia, New Zealand, United States and now Canada.  $14 billion is said to be the increase in Nintendo’s market value in the week since the game launched. $1.6 million is the estimated amount of money, the app which has already destroyed some of the world’s biggest apps, makes in a day. There is a dark side to this as well. Pokemon GO’s craze has resulted in people quitting their jobs and being stabbed in the back. Tom Currie, who used to work at a riverside restaurant at Auckland in New Zealand, left his job, baffling his parents and now aims to catch digital creatures on his phone. 21-year old Michael Baker from Oregon, USA admits he continued playing the game despite being stabbed in the back. Moreover, two men playing the game had to be rescued after falling off a 90-foot ocean bluff in California.

The craze of Pokemon GO has reached Lahore as well. Despite not being officially released in the country, avid Pokemon lovers have found ways to download the game in their phones. Mahnoor Rahim, residing in Askari X, expressed her views about her childhood love. “I was as crazy for it as a kid as I am now. The game itself is very different. It’s a real-time game based on Google maps which, instead of making you lazy, requires you to get out of the house and walk around to look for Pokemon. The more you walk the more Pokemon you catch! What could be better? When you’re walking around with friends in search for critters around your neighborhood with this amazing nostalgic feeling, I can safely say this game has the most positive effect than any other,” she said.

Nine-year old Sara Zakia who lives near Abid Market on Queen’s Road was not even born when the Pokemon first went on air in Pakistan. “I and my brother Uzair at times use my mother’s phone or my father’s tab when they are asleep to play the game. My parents don’t allow me to go out, so I switch between rooms and roam around in the house to catch Pokemon,” she said.

A familiar name among social media users in Pakistan, blogger Rana Talha Asfar (RTA) showed delight on being able to play the game he always wanted to. “Pokemon GO is awesome. It makes you feel like you have been living your childhood all over again and your dreams of becoming a Pokemon trainer are becoming true,” he said.  

Meriyem Batool, who resides in DHA Phase VIII, shed light on some of the benefits of the game. “This game shuns your sedentary lifestyle as you have to get out of the house, walk around and play the game. The game is GPS based, so it is innovative as well, which urges people to explore their neighbourhood. The sense of achievement when you throw the Pokemon ball to capture it is out of the world,” she said.

Living in Askari XI, Humza Afaf, was surprised by the turnout and the craze of the game in our part of the world. “Like many other Pokemon fans, I found a way around the issue of the game not being available in Pakistan and downloaded it. To my surprise, my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with posts of my friends playing the game. Courtesy of Tech Juice providing an interactive map, I can now plan to hunt these digital creatures with my group of friends,” he said.

Pokemon lovers in Pakistan still await its official release. There is a lack of Gyms and Pokestops in Pakistan due to it not being internationally released yet. As of now, around 65 locations in Karachi, 35 in Lahore, 63 in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, 3 in Multan, 1 in Rahim Yar Khan, 3 in Bhera and 3 in Abbottabad have been marked as spots to find, train and groom your captured digital creatures.