China puts up Stop sign for Pokemon Go

PHOTO: The New Paper

SHANGHAI - China will not allow its mammoth mobile online population to play Pokemon Go or other augmented-reality games until it completes a review of potential security risks, a Chinese digital publishing group said.

The roadblock was put up amid concerns that such games contain "rather big social risks" including potential threats to consumer and traffic safety, and the security of "geographic information", the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association (CADPA) said this week.

The industry group said in a statement that it was informed of the move by China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT).

It said SAPPRFT was conducting a security review of such games in the meantime.

Pokemon Go health hazards

  • A pregnant woman in Taiwan recently suffered temporary vision loss in her right eye after playing Pokemon Go on her mobile phone for an extended period of time.
  • The 31-year-old woman had a pre-existing eye condition macular degeneration which can lead to blindness in a person's central vision.
  • Another man in his 40s with a medical history of iritis - inflammation of the iris - also had a relapse after overindulging in the popular augmented reality game.
  • New Taipei City Hospital's ophthalmology department saw a 20 per cent increase in those seeking help for dry eyes and eye strain since Pikachu and his friends spawned on the streets.
  • Staring at smartphones in the dark can also cause eye strain as the eyes are forced to adapt to the bright light emitted from the screen.
  • Although Pokemon Go encourages sedentary people to start walking outdoors,
  • some players have complained of sore legs from walking around for prolonged periods.
  • These enthusiastic Pokemon trainers may also feel pain in their neck or arms from frequently looking down at their mobile phone screens
  • or repeatedly flicking Pokeballs at the adorable critters to capture them.
  • Those who spend long hours playing the game under the sun face the risk of dehydration while walking long distances to hatch Pokemon eggs.
  • Pokemon trainers should take a 10-minute break after 40 minutes of gameplay, doctors advised.
  • During the break, they can do some stretches to soothe tired muscles and drink some water.
  • Wearing comfortable shoes can also help players avoid getting blisters on their feet.

"Before then, SAPPRFT will not accept requests to approve such games and has advised domestic game developers to be cautious when considering developing, introducing or operating such games," the publishing association said.

Pokemon Go engages mobile users in a virtual chase for cartoon creatures appearing in their vicinity, as seen through their phone camera, but relies for many of its functions on Google Maps, which is blocked in China.

Beijing keeps tight control over surveying, mapping and geographic information.

Artist reimagines Pokemons as humans

  • Californian-based artist Tamtamdi has created a series of illustrations of how Pokemons would look like if they were humans.
  • The artist has created over 250 of them.
  • Each illustration takes about an hour to make.
  • The drawings feature characters including Pikachu, Lapras, Charizard, and even Lugia.
  • Some of the humanoid forms were quite accurate.
  • Others had pretty clever depictions of horns, tentacles and shells.
  • Tamtamdi told Bored Panda that the most important thing is "capturing the first impression of the Pokemon, then the silhouette and the gesture".
  • The artist also used the Pokemon's as a fashion reference.
  • Tamtamdi's works can be viewed at Deviant Art.

China is a huge potential market for gamers, with 1.3 billion mobile users by the end of 2015.

Some Chinese companies are already getting into the act, with tech giants Alibaba and Tencent recently introducing augmented-reality games with a theme linked to the Chinese lunar new year holidays beginning in late January.

It was not immediately clear how the digital-publishing association's announcement would effect those games.

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