Thought Pokémon GO was about was just about hunting Pokémon? Think again. Since it first launched in July the augmented reality game seems to have landed many of its loyal fans in trouble, or worse, behind bars. The game’s popularity, and the unbelievable events surrounding it, don’t seem to be dying down the world over. With reports of a Russian Youtuber facing up to five years in prison after playing Pokémon GO in a Yekaterinburg church, our eyes are back on the global craze. Read on for the outrageous case of the incarcerated Pokémon trainer and more shocking Pokémon scandals from the New East.
Youtuber arrested for playing in church
Ruslan Sokolovsky originally uploaded a video of himself catching Pokémon in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg at the beginning of August, when Pokémon frenzy was in full swing. “I believe it’s both safe and not prohibited by law,” he says in the video, in which he can also be seen hurling Pokéballs at a Poliwag and Zubat in the Orthodox church that also happens to be a Gym where you can battle Pokémon. At least a few of the video’s 1 million views likely came from the authorities: Sokolovsky is currently being detained for two months, charged with inciting hatred and offending religious sensibilities, and could be sent to prison for up to five years by the same anti-blasphemy law that locked up two members of Pussy Riot. Since Sokolovsky’s arrest, the mayor of Yekaterinburg Yevgeny Roizman has weighed in on Facebook: “You can’t arrest a man for idiocy,” he said, calling the affair a “disgrace”. Meanwhile, on twitter, the #FreeSokolovsky movement has flourished, with supporters including Nadya Tolokonnikova of — you guessed it — Pussy Riot.
Tourists scolded on the mountain top
Croatia recently had it up to here with visitors' tomfoolery and took to publicly shaming tourists for, among other things, Pokémon hunting within the country’s scenic landscape. The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service issued a series of harsh lectures in the form of tweets that began by condemning “stupid and dangerous” selfies, went on to advocate for ample sun protection, and ended by reprimanding visitors for playing Pokémon GO on top of the Velebit and Biokovo mountains, possibly in fear of some intrepid Pokémon hunters wandering off the edge of them. In summation: “Dear tourists, we respect you. It’s time to start respecting yourself.”
Soldiers caught playing in a war zone
There’s nothing like taking a Pokémon GO break to kill some time, at least if you’re a member of the Ukrainian army on the front lines. A clip of two soldiers using the app on their smartphones while two others kept watch with machine guns went viral after it was filmed near the city of Dokuchaevsk in Eastern Ukraine. Rare Pokémon, including Pikachu, were alleged to be present. “We invite everyone to join us and take part in searching and hunting for these rare Pokémon,” one soldier said in the video, but also issued a warning: “Some Pokémon bite, you know.” The video gained even more popularity after being re-posted by Ukrainian MP Igor Lapin, and was received by an unamused public. As one commenter put it: “This video was a brave and dangerous joke. They risked their lives to film this, but was it really worth it?” We’ll let you be the judge.
A minefield of Pokémon
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pokémon-related injuries have been piling up worldwide, with players falling off cliffs, crashing cars into schools, and getting shot. Meanwhile, in Bosnia, Pokémon hunters have been wandering into minefields. An estimated 120,000 active mines leftover from conflict in the 1990s are still scattered throughout the nation, and after reports of players proceeding into no-go zones, a demining charity in Bosnia felt it necessary to issue a warning lest some promising Pokémon-catching careers reach an explosive end.
A Satanic CIA operation
Before Ruslan Sokolovsky ever set foot inside a church with a smartphone, Pokémon GO has been accused of all manners of evil in Russia and has had officials fearful of a potential Western conspiracy. Some critics voiced concerns that the game may be a thinly veiled surveillance operation orchestrated by the CIA: “Pokémon GO might turn out to be a spy game,” readers were warned by the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Players walk around not only streets but also indoors … For example, offices with some important papers.” The St Petersburg Cossacks also called for a ban on the app after agreeing that American spies could be behind it. “Where were the applications developed? In the USA. That's why you cannot rule out the presence of the CIA,” said representative Andrey Polyakov. Accusations went one step further when Polyakov suggested Pokémon GO might have been created by a force even more demonic than the CIA: “It reeks of Satanism.” In the words of Russian senator Frants Klintsevich: “It feels like the devil arrived.”
A new national anthem?
Youtuber Mishovy Šílenosti has previously found success with a song about Minecraft but his latest project has caused a true stir. Young Misha loves Pokémon GO so much that he decided to write a song about it, and the results speak for themselves. His refrain (“I play Pokémon GO every day”) suggests an excessive video game habit, but there’s no denying the genius of a video that has won him (and his guitar-playing older brother) over 20 million views on YouTube to date. There has even been a petition to make the song the Czech national anthem. We dare you to listen and not have it stuck in your head all day, which would be the true shocker.