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August 14, 2016
by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

Pokemon Fever: A New Cultural Phenomenon Consuming Humanity

August 14, 2016 07:35 by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

In this era of mobile technology, video games have never been more popular.  Among them, Pokemon by Nintendo is considered to be one of the most beloved games with the biggest fan base around the globe.

Since its creation 17 years ago, Pokemon has dominated the field of mobile games, especially with the latest version of Pokemon Go released early July, 2016.

Within a matter of few days, Pokemon Go instantly went viral, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Based on reports by Survey Monkey, Pokemon Go attracted more than 20 million daily active users in the United States alone (Lovelace Jr., 2016).

As expected, the widely popular game reached number one on App Store and became the hottest game of 2016, topping the existing big games like indie hit and Supercell's blockbuster Clash Royale (ibid.).

What’s Different

Unlike the original game, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality experience, allowing the players to find and catch Pokémon characters in the real world. The game is played passionately by different age groups across the board.

Since the release of the game, it is easy to find flocks of children, teenagers, and young adults gathering together to play the game in concert in various places of the community. At different times of the day, an increasing number of people are out and about with their mobile phones, busily walking on the streets in pursuit of the Pokemon characters.  

Its fervor seems to be growing at an outrageous pace every day almost to the point of obsession, simultaneously causing some safety concerns.

The Pokemon Go craze is an unprecedented cultural phenomenon and its impact seems to be extending far beyond the simple function of leisure or pleasure it was originally designed to serve.  

Arguments For and Against

Among its fans, Pokemon Go is touted as a means to socialize, connect, and mingle with people who would otherwise remain isolated and disconnected. It is argued that more kids and adults alike can now use Pokemon Go as a vehicle through which they can make new friends and enjoy new experiences together.

On the other hand, some players are taking the game to the extreme level, posing serious safety risks to themselves as well as others in the process.  

Reportedly, some players slipped and fell while others crashed into cars. According to the Texas A&M University police department, a player in Texas exited a moving vehicle to catch a nearby Pokémon. Subsequently, a 15-year-old of Tarentum, Pennsylvania, was struck by a car after the game took her across a major highway (Panken, 2016).

The game can continue to wreak havoc if/when heedlessly played. Most recently, a body was recently found floating in the local river in Wyoming, four players were reportedly mugged in Missouri, and two others were robbed in a California park — all while playing the game (ibid.).

In response to these grave safety risks, authorities are issuing proactive warnings to ensure public safety. Police departments in New York, Miami, Austin and Los Angeles have already released their lists of safety tips as a preventive measure aimed at curtailing further Pokémon Go accidents (ibid.).

Players are advised to be alert at all times. When playing in pairs or groups, it is important to remain in well-lit areas and avoid driving or riding any devices such as bikes or skateboards while engaging in the app. It would also be critical to stay aware of the surroundings so as to avoid being lured into unsafe areas or bad situations (ibid).  


With every new invention, many benefits may be reaped. At the same time, such benefits could be compromised if not wisely or properly leveraged with its potential side effects.

When it comes to Pokemon Go, it almost seems un-human for people to have to rely on a virtual reality to live out the real reality.

In some ways, it is even a sadder reality that people have to rely on a mobile game to reclaim the very root of the human nature to be interpersonal and interactive.

Especially when the human reality is as finite as it is, it may be worth re-examining how we are maximizing the limited time we are given here and now.

And there may actually be a better, more humanly possible way to live the present without having to rely on the augmented reality at the risk of our own safety and humanity at large.


Lovelace Jr, B. Special to CNBC. July 13, 2016. Pokemon Go Is Now the Biggest Mobile Game in U.S. History. Retrieved from

Panken, E. July 13, 2016. NBC News. As Pokémon Go Consumes Country, Police Nationwide Issue Safety Tips. Retrieved from

About the Author

Dr. Agnes Oh Dr. Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

Dr. Agnes Oh is dually licensed as a clinical psychologist and a marriage and family therapist in the state of California, fully committed to helping each individual to maximize his/her intrinsic potential to heal, grow, and thrive.

Dr. Agnes Oh has a clinical practice in Glendale, CA

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