The battle is real on virtual Pokémon app

Pokémon Go has taken off in the Tri-Cities before the launch of the app in Canada so this summer everyone's gotta catch 'em all

The battle for Pokémon supremacy is alive and well in the Tri-Cities with anecdotal reports of Pokémon being found around Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Coquitlam.

Although the Pokémon Go smart phone app isn't available in Canada yet, fans of the 90's Nintendo games and spin-off books and cartoons are finding ways to download the augmented reality app for iOS and Android that allows players to capture, battle and train virtual Pokémon in their neighbourhoods.

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Players as young as 13 are finding ways to download the popular app and can be seen — outdoors — with their phones and, as they walk around, their avatar does, too, so they can catch Pokémon, gain combat power (CP) and hit points (HP) with the ultimate aim of battling and taking over Pokémon gyms.

Some popular spots appear to be Klahanie, Rocky Point Park and Pioneer Park in Port Moody, and on Monday, Coquitlam's Town Centre Park was the site of numerous Pokémon Go players wandering around with one eye on their phones and another on their surroundings.

Sightings of Pokémon in Port Coquitlam have also been reported.

The phenomenon of people getting off their couches into the outdoors also prompted comments from Tracy Green, of the Mossom Creek Hatchery, to wonder why it took a smartphone app to get children to go outside.

"Apparently we've been doing this all wrong. How can we get kids interacting more? Get them outside exploring? Encourage them to walk, run or bike more? Nintendo has literally turned the world into a giant Pokémon scavenger hunt with its new ‪#‎pokemongo‬ app," Green wrote on Facebook.

The free app by Ninento, developed by Niantic, that has gone viral world wide has also generated some concerns from various police forces and even the Better Business Bureau, and if you have children with the game, you might want to caution them to pay attention to their surroundings.

Here is a list of BBB cautions on the surprisingly sucessful game.

“BBB simply wants to make sure people understand that in the digital world these days there are a few things you might want to take into consideration before downloading the Pokemon Go app," says Evan Kelly, senior communications advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC.

BBB has these tips to consider:

Expenses: It’s possible to play completely cost-free by winning “PokeCoins” (the app’s currency) through gameplay, but you can also purchase the coins through an in-app purchase. The longer you play, the more spending money you need to store and “train” your gathered characters. The app also requires constant GPS access, and it uses a lot of data. After playing for hours every day, consumers with limited data plans may find themselves with a hefty bill at the end of the month.

Privacy: In order to play the game, users must allow the app to access other applications, such as maps and camera. Many users sign in with a Google account, and that has caused some concerns about privacy. The Android version of the game only accesses limited data (such as the user’s email address), but the iOS version for the iPhone can access all Google data. Niantic, the game’s maker, says no personal information has been accessed, and it is issuing a bug fix to correct the problem. Users can create an account through the app itself rather than using an email address to access the game.

Malware: So far, the app is only available in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, which has given cybercriminals an opportunity to capitalize on the demand. A malware version of the game has been found online; although no known infections have been reported. Users should only download the app through official app stores, not third-party sites.

Safety: Players should use the same safety precautions while playing the game that they would in any other outdoor setting, including caution in strange locations. A Missouri police department reported robbers using a secluded “PokeStop” location to rob unsuspecting game players. Players should be cautious as pedestrians and obey all traffic laws, and drivers should be on the lookout for children who may be distracted by the game. The app also drains phone batteries, so users should be careful not to get stranded far from home.

Infringement: PokeStops are supposed to all be on public property (or cooperative private sites), but at least one homeowner has reported that his historic house is mistakenly a PokeStop. Players should be respectful of others’ private property. Future commercial opportunities are anticipated, where stores can offer rare or unique characters to add to the game.

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