|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
Pokémon Go casts a spell on Hà Nội
by Nguyễn Thuỳ Linh
On a quiet Tuesday morning, a strong current of wind swept a baby stroller into a lake, carrying with its force a one-year-old boy. His mother had been busy playing Pokémon Go.
The accident took place by Xuân Hương Lake in the Central Highlands city of Đà Lạt on August 15, is one among many incidents linked to the Pokémon plague in Việt Nam. Fortunately, the child was saved by bystanders who witnessed the incident.
The virtual reality phenomenon has been causing some troubles to people’s daily life in urban areas.
For one, local businesses near Pokéstops, especially those located in narrow alleys, are encountering large groups of people crowding their storefronts. Thu Nga, the owner of a café in Hà Nội’s Ngô Tất Tố Street, said, “While the game has certainly drawn in more customers, I have been constantly reminding people to please either enter, or move away from my store.”
Unlike previous generations of video games, Pokémon Go requires players to be constantly on the move, leading to a visible increase in involvement with the game in public spaces.
Nguyễn Hồng Kiên, a cyclo-peddler who works at the cross-section of Bà Triệu and Hàng Khay streets in Hà Nội, said, “I have made several rounds taking Pokémon Go players around the city. Unlike more traditional customers who want to enjoy the scenery, Pokémon players tell me to hurry.”
This has given rise to many transport services that now offer deals to take “Pokémon trainers” to capture virtual reality creatures. Some such services are taking to social platforms such as Facebook to advertise personal services that offer to drive groups of players around in safe, air-conditioned vehicles, along with free snacks.
When asked to define a successful Pokémon player, 24-year-old Việt Phương said, “It comes down to being at the right place at the right time, and in order to do so, you have to stay focused on [the game] for a longer period than the other players.”
For tourists visiting the country, Pokémon Go has become a replacement for tour guides. Carl Trodsson, a visitor from Sweden, said, “Instead of spending money on a guide, I think that it is a more individualised experience to use Pokémon Go to lead me around the landmarks of Hà Nội.”
“[The game] has turned the old quarter into a playground,” Thu Nga said, commenting on the spell the game has cast on the city. “Some players seem to forget that there are real-life consequences that affect the lives of others.”
As a matter of fact, Google Map Maker of Việt Nam recently appealed to Pokémon Go users to stop creating false locations on its server.
Google Map Maker of Việt Nam was launched in 2008 to encourage citizens to submit mapping data for landmarks that were yet to be discovered.
However, Pokémon gamers have been misusing the tool to create fake locations in the hope that Pokémon Go would add a Pokéstop there for their convenience.
As the temperature falls in the afternoon, Hoàn Kiếm Lake becomes a place where some people can take a quiet stroll with loved ones, and have their daily dose of exercises. For others, the lake has become a hunting ground that promises virtual rewards.
Fifty-two-year-old Trung Nguyễn, who walks around the lake after dinner every day, said, “While I applaud [the Niantic developers] for creating Pokémon Go to encourage youth to go outdoors, it is unfortunate that it takes [a game] to motivate them to do so nowadays.” — VNS