The A-poké-lypse hits Asia-Pacific: Here’s how they’re coping
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The A-poké-lypse hits Asia-Pacific: Here’s how they’re coping

IF you see an influx of people outdoors loitering around today, staring down at their mobile phones, worry not – the smartphone-based game Pokémon GO has finally been released in several countries and regions in Asia and Oceania.

According to game developers Niantic Inc., from August 6, fans of the worldwide phenomenon can now play the game in 15 new countries and regions, including: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau.

Last month, trainers in Japan and Hong Kong already got a head-start, as the game was released earlier there.

In Thailand, officials have expressed their concern with the Pokémon GO craze.

The Ministry of Culture was worried that reckless players “may cause damage to historical places” while playing the game, said a source, as quoted by the Nation.

Despite claims that the game was improving health among users by encouraging them to go outside and be more active, Public Health Ministry spokesman and psychiatrist, Dr. Yongyuth Wongpiromsan, said players “may become addicted to the game“, which may be problematic.

As for Malaysia, even before the official release of the game in the country, local Islamic authorities have warned Muslims against playing the augmented reality game, citing fears that it could “lead to a craving for power”, reported Bernama.

“On Aug 1 the Islamic Legal Consultative Committee of the Federal Territory discussed and decided that the games Pokémon GO and Pokémon are not allowed for Muslims,” said Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri – who is a mufti, or Muslim legal expert – in a statement posted on the committee’s website on Friday.

In coming to the decision, Zulkifli said the committee had considered the rulings made by Islamic authorities in other Muslim states, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and most recently, Iran, which determined that the game was harmful.

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“It can also lead to a craving for power and idols with power. In addition, it can lead to gambling,” he added.

Zulkifli also said that the game could leave users vulnerable to foreign surveillance, intrusion into personal privacy, accidents, neglect, and game addiction.

Claims of cheating via GPS spoofing, which tricks the game into thinking you’re in a different GPS location than where you actually are, have been rife in Singapore.

Many players have complained that on the first day of the game’s release, gyms were already occupied by powerful Pokémon of around 2000 CP, and trainers at level 30 or more, reported Mashable.

What this means is that there have been some players in Singapore who have been using a workaround to play the game in locations outside of the country, without having to physically be there.

However, GPS spoofing is considered cheating, and may get you banned from playing the game.

Compared to authorities in other countries, Singaporean police appear to be a bit more sporting regarding the game, and have issued a friendly safety reminder via social media.

In a Twitter post by the Singapore Police Force, players were asked to be mindful of their surroundings and not play the game while driving.

Indonesia has banned police and military officers from playing the game due to security concerns.

According to Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, who issued the order, the game could be used by foreign countries to obtain sensitive information via smartphone cameras.

“Spying can come in different forms,” he said.

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