Heads were buried in phones more than usual in 2016 as the hysteria surrounding the augmented reality mobile game, Pokémon GO, engrossed millions of iPhone and Android users eager to catch them all.
Gamers sauntered through real-life environments in a chase to be the best. Parks, grocery stores, sporting venues, museums, and more were fair game, each a destination through which gamers perambulated to electronically capture the imaginary beasts on their mobile device.
In Canada the action even extended to military installations, the game’s GPS instructing blissfully ignorant gamers to trespass onto a number of bases.
The Canadian Armed Forces responded with a strict warning against following a fantasy creature onto a tangible military installation, but transfixed gamers cared nothing for rules based in reality.
I will travel across the land. Searching far and wide.
It had been nearly four years since a query into the series of incidents was submitted — the result of an apparent backlog of information requests — but the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation finally received a report detailing Canada’s 2016 war on Pikachu, Charizard, Jigglypuff, and their kin.
Of the report’s contents, the majority of information depicted a staff mired in a bundle of confusion in the wake of the game’s release.
Maj. Jeff Monaghan advised personnel at Fort Frontenac that select locations on the base were serving as “both a PokeGym and a PokeStop,” according to a report he filed from Ontario’s Canadian Forces Base Kingston.
“I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is,” he added.
From CFB Borden, security expert David Levenick theorized that the “game’s premise seems to be going to the ‘PokeStops/Gyms’ to collect” Pokémon. Levenick noted five such destinations near the base range alone.
“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” Levenick wrote.
Military police responded by issuing an memo to base authorities throughout Canada to be on the lookout for neck-craned, iHunching civilians ambling around base like extras in “The Walking Dead.”
“It has been discovered that several locations within DND/CAF establishments are host to game landmarks (PokeStops and Gyms) and its mythical digital creatures (Pokémon),” the advisory stated.
The warning beacons spread quickly through the ranks, but no such caution was detected by scores of Pokémon players enraptured by the soft glow of their phones. They were coming.
It’s you and me. I know it’s my destiny.
“One lady at the [CFB Borden’s] Worthington Tank Park was playing the game whilst the 3 children with her were climbing all over the tanks,” a horrified Levenick recalled.
The invasion was on. Episodes of suspicious vehicle activity followed next.
After being pulled over, one rudderless driver answered police questions with a hurried declaration, “I have to beat my kids” — in Pokémon GO, he should have added.
With hordes assembling, three bases took the bizarre measure of ordering MPs, iPhones and iPads in hand, to conduct what amounted to base-wide police calls ... of Pokémon.
All have, at some low point, received humiliating orders designed to solidify a status as low member on the totem pole. But oy ...
Despite the growing threat, military responses were not entirely devoid of stereotypical Canadian gentility.
“Maybe some extra people will visit the museum!” Maj. Alicia Saucier said upon learning legions of Pokémon-seekers had breached the security of the Garrison Museum in search of select items.
Officials at CFB Halifax echoed Saucier’s sentiment, even suggesting in an email to one of the base’s top officers to “upgrade the museum PokeStop to a Pokémon gym” to ignite interest the base museum.
In the end, an official complaint was lodged against Niantic, the game’s developer. Niantic promised to review the complaint, but the CBC report ended there.
For all we know, our neighbors to the North have been overrun.
Wandering gamers in the lower 48 launched a similarly desperate search for Pokémon — whether in the form of crashing into a parked police car in Baltimore, getting stuck in a tree in New Jersey, or meandering through a place of the utmost reverence, the Holocaust Museum — but we fought them back.
Send word, O Canada, and help will be on the way. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free from Pokémon.