Pokemon in the Arab region : Go? Or No Go ?

Since its release on July 6th, Pokemon Go acquired an immediate success and captured the attention of more than 15 million users in the first week. A phenomenon of 200 million dollars income worldwide.

The game suggests a virtual reality where users hunt Pokemons using GPS and a map of the roads and the buildings surrounding them. During the capturing phase of the game, the Pokemons appear as part of the scenery surrounding the player; as if he/she did really hunt it. Moreover, many guides and tips were produced and published to help users catch Pokemons and evolve in the game’s different stages.

Pokemon Go received many critics regarding its use of personal data through the camera and the GPS location as it is considered a location-based game. There is nothing to hide, Pokemon Go states frankly in its privacy policy that it collects information.

The game is still only available to be downloaded only in the United States, despite that Internet users around the world, including in the Arab region, use proxies that fake their IP address and allow them to download the game as if they were in the US. Other applications allow users to play in areas where they are not there physically using fake GPS locations, according to the conditions of Niantic, those actions are punished by suppression of their accounts and banned from Pokemon Go, but the manipulation exists!

In Tunisia , illegal but…
What is interesting about players in Tunisia, that they made the game as a community collective game and not as an individual one. They created their own facebook pages as communities, they meet in a café every evening to start the game as a group, then they post the photos of the captured pokemons on their Facebook page considering it as a group trophy.

In the Gulf Arab states
According to Reuters, authorities prohibited playing Pokemon Go due to security reasons particularly in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. The ministry of Interior in Kuwait shows no tolerance with users playing in forbidden sites such as the emir’s palace, oil facilities, mosques and military basis.

The Jordanian experience
Pokemon Go is not available also in Jordan and according to a source in telecommunications regulatory commission (TRC) the user’s data privacy could be misused stating that ‘‘Those who download it in Jordan risk having their privacy and data breached and compromised by malware and viruses that might affect their devices when downloading the game through unsafe links’’
However, many jordanians are already addicted to the game. The Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) became very enthusiastic in promoting tourism in Jordan by using Pokemon Go and launched a competition where players of Pokemon Go can win a two-day trip to Aqaba if they share photos of Pokemons captured in touristic areas, using the hashtag #PokeGoJordan.

Imagined version in Syria
Syrian artists are using the Pokemon Go to highlight the tragedy going on in Syria on daily basis. A refugee artist in Denmark proposes finding objects that Syrians have no more access to in the ruins such as books, that represent a fundamental right to education. To him “saving the lives of people is more important than chasing pokemons”.
Another artist in Sweden, created some images to describe the syrian immigration.
Where another syrian artist project “Pokemon Go in Syria” displays photos of Syria with animated pokemons. The artwork objective according to the artist is not to blame the players but to highlight the crisis in Syria.

Banned in Egypt
As in many countries, Pokemon go was not officially released, however, some users in Egypt have successfully downloaded it. Al-Azhar top islamic institution condemned Pokemon describing it by “harmful mania” and has banned the Japanese franchise since 2001.
An official spokesman of the egyptian authority stated that Pokemon Go threatens the egyptian national security as it could be used for spying and data collection. For this, he demanded a legislation to prohibit the use of the Pokemon application.

Where in Palestine…
In Palestine, like other Arab countries, users could download a version that let them experience the game, however, Palestinians use Pokemon Go as means of relief and to showcase their daily suffering.

PokemonGo-PalestineRare Pokemon that a palestinian couldn’t capture because it’s over the apartheid wall

Israeli soldiers were prohibited from playing the game as they received a warning from the security department stating that ‘‘The game is a source of gathering information’’ fearing from revealing sensitive military information or army operations.

What we need to do with Pokemon Go?
Successful and Innovative games like Pokemon Go followed and appreciated by many users, could be used as means of development of many sectors in the Arab World countries. Art, tourism and culture could be interesting fields of exploration through Pokemon Go.