Media watchdogs attack Pokémon Go

Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

A Facebook post from a major news site caught my attention. It showed a really sad picture of a teenager with tears in her eyes and injuries from being hit by a car. The headline below read “Terrible things are happening to Pokémon Go players.”

I immediately face-palmed.

To put it in context, she tried to run across a highway. At the time she got hit, she didn’t even have the game open. She had already caught whatever Pokémon she was after and was trying to run back when she got hit. Her mother told the reporter that she still blamed Pokemon Go for making her kid run across the highway in the first place.

I really should have seen this coming.

When ever something gets wildly popular, the way Pokemon Go has, there’s always someone on the news trying to incite mass hysteria. We saw it with Harry Potter and groups trying to say it promotes witchcraft. We saw it with pro wrestling, back when it was more popular, with people blaming it for kids doing stupid things in their back yards. We saw it with video games with the talk shows having self-proclaimed “experts” on their shows trying to act like video games drive kids insane. And before that we had congressional hearings with politicians on a moral crusade calling musicians in to testify and defend themselves against accusations of hidden backwards messages.

It goes all the way back to the inventions of literature and theater. Part of it is because media is a soft target with few lobbyists to defend them against people trying to score political points with a fake controversy, and part of it is because a certain sort of person has a natural tendency to invent reasons why the things that they don’t like are dangerous or immoral.

What makes it difficult is that whoever got hurt doing something dumb in these cases often really did draw inspiration from whatever their favorite entertainment is. Not always. Some of it is a lie or a legal defense, or an attempt to sue. But those kids in their back yards in the late 90s beating each other up probably thought they would be in the WWE right now. And those two guys we’ve all heard about who walked straight off a cliff really were playing Pokémon Go.

But correlation isn’t causality. The self-appointed babysitters of the world think that they need to censor everything that gives people ideas or distracts them when they should be paying attention to their surroundings. If anything, people playing the game just need to be reminded to watch where they’re going.

The game gives that warning every time someone opens it.

The game can’t be blamed for stupidity. Those two guys walked off of the same cliff. That probably means that the second guy didn’t look up from his game after he heard his friend scream. Maybe they wouldn’t have walked off of that particular cliff if they weren’t playing the game, but they would have walked off of some cliff or another sooner or later.