Pokémon Go-Spy-On-People-For-Me?

This warning has popped up on my news feed several times today, written by someone whose name I am going to withhold for his protection.  Let’s take a look at the claims he’s making, shall we? Information in blockquotes is exactly as posted on Facebook, with no edits made by me except to break it up into investigatable chunks.

SERIOUS WARNING: I want to warn you all about this Pokemon Go app that is all the rage right now.. If you know me at all, you know that I have the inside scoop of what is going on with technology on pretty high levels…

That’s certainly debatable, based on what we’re about to see.

Well, you are familiar with the Google Street View car that drives around and takes 360 degree video and uploads it to google maps for the world to see, etc..

Let me just stop you right there. First, I must insist that the Google Street View car is emphatically not a privacy risk. The car does not enter private property or take images of anything that is not 100% completely public, visible from the street by any driver or passenger. Second, the Street View car doesn’t take video. It takes 360-degree still photos at regular intervals. You may think this is just splitting hairs, but it’s actually quite an important distinction: while you could conceivably discover private information about a person from a video of their actions, a still image provides no personally identifiable information that could not be gleaned by a driver’s glimpse as he passes by.

This Pokemon Go app is a miniature version of the google street video car, and it has you all going around taking videos of inside your house, your yard, and everywhere else you go,

…a function that you can turn off using a switch in the top right hand corner of every screen.

and UPLOADING IT TO THE GOOGLE MAPPING SYSTEM PERMANENTLY..

This is patently untrue. If you have the “AR” switch turned on, the images are not only not sent to the server, they’re actually not even saved to your device. This can be debunked by anyone who checks the app’s data usage (a simple function for anyone with an Android phone); the data usage is far, far too low to be uploading images.

In addition, though Niantic (the developer of Pokémon Go) was once a subsidiary of Google, they were sold by the company last year as a part of their restructuring.

The game even makes you pan your camera around to get the full panorama of the area, which is also tied to the GPS coordinates of that location..

Again, during investigations of the app by outside programmers, it was discovered that images are not even saved to the phone, much less uploaded to any server.

You are all unknowingly uploading video of your most private property right into the new world order NSA database..

This is hilarious. Video uploads are a VERY slow and data-intensive process; just try uploading a 30-second YouTube video. That act takes about five minutes over an LTE connection. If the app isn’t uploading photos (which, again, it’s quite apparent it is not), it certainly isn’t uploading video.

I’m not even going to touch the “new world order NSA database” thing, or the fact that this guy has been ending every sentence with a double period for some reason, or the fact that he used the phrase “all the rage” at the beginning, which basically indicates that he doesn’t have any understanding of current culture or technology at all.

So don’t let anybody play the game in your house or anywhere on your property..

And don’t forget your tinfoil hats.

The bottom line is, people are going to be scared anytime an app or game makes a big splash in the world. But in this case, it’s actually gathering less information on you than Facebook is. So don’t take the word of one simple person about how terrible something could be. Check multiple sources and make sure that they aren’t saying something in a vacuum. And don’t forget to try and understand something before you think it’s an evil plot to take over the world.

As for Pokémon Go? It’s getting people outside. They’re hanging out together, interacting with strangers positively, and being courteous to each other. The game is a great example of how technology can improve us as human beings. Let’s not be so quick to tear it down.

Happy Birthday, Charizard!

pokemon-2

Happy Birthday, Charizard!

For my Redeeming Culture article today, I have to admit, I was strongly considering running with this as a thesis:  “Jesus is the ULTIMATE master, and we’re His Pokémon!  He catches us all, and…”  But I couldn’t figure out a way to finish the sentence, and it seemed kind of…”icky” to me.  I’ve played all of the main series games (if you’re curious: Red, Gold, Ruby, FireRed, Diamond, HeartGold, White, X, AlphaSapphire), and even though the relationship between the player and his Pokémon is one of teamwork, love, and mutual respect, it just…doesn’t feel right to me.

I remember talking to someone in my 8th grade English class about what we wanted for Christmas.  I mentioned what I really wanted was Pokémon, and I said something that I’ve said for many Christmases and birthdays since, and really meant it: “If that’s all I get, I’ll be thrilled!

When I finally unwrapped Pokémon Red Version that Christmas and switched it on, I didn’t know what to expect, but it soon became a feeling inextricably tied to Christmas for me: playing Pokémon in the warm house with a cold blanket of snow outside; struggling to see the non-backlit screen in the dim twilight as we drove home from grandma’s house; begging to turn on the light so I could “just finish this battle” (and, let’s be honest, the five after it).  And it became a big part of my life.  Obviously.

pokemon-3My first team is, sadly, lost to time.  But I know that I named my player “David,” my rival “Kyle”, and chose a Charmander (as every good thirteen-year-old boy did!) whom I did not name.  And my Alakazam was my pride and joy back in those days; the two of them took on all comers and always came out on top.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played Generation I, but since the games are being re-released today on 3DS, I might pick it up again.  If only to say “hi” to Charizard again.  And to whip Kyle’s Blastoise’s butt one last time.

pokejs #1: Introducing pokejs!

This is a project I’ve been thinking about for a while.  Come check it out.

Here’s the long and short of it (you can also read this in the project’s README on GitHub):

Goal:

The goal for this project is to create a lightweight, browser version of the 1996 Nintendo game Pokemon. The game will be initially created in the style of the original Pokemon Red and Blue, but made highly modular to support multiple versions of the game engine, graphics and UI, rules, and Pokemon set.

Purpose:

The purpose for this project is not to replace Pokemon or get people playing the game in browser instead of on the 3DS, but rather to investigate the behind-the-scenes mechanics that make the game so great and timeless, and eventually carry the lessons learned over into a new game.

Architecture:

The program itself will be VERY modular.  I want everything to be able to be easily switched out, from battle logic to monster code and from movesets to tilesets.

The repo itself is currently divided into three branches: the master (of course), which will be reserved for finalized code; the “overworld-engine” branch, and the “battle-engine” branch.  We’ll work on each part separately and merge them in later.  Eventually, we’ll see branches spring up for all of the project’s features.

Roadmap:

  • Build complete battle engine
  • Build battle engine UI and sprites
  • Build “overworld” engine
  • Build “overworld” UI and sprites
  • Add all Generation 1 Pokemon
  • Tweak battle engine to match the modern version’s more expansive ruleset
  • Add Pokemon from generations 2-7
  • Build the complete Gen 1 Kanto region
  • OAuth login for game saves
  • “New Game” options, including Support for an “enforced” Nuzlocke run (including variant rules)
  • Mobile interface
  • Build various visual interfaces that mimic generations 2-7

Testing Assets:

We’ll begin testing the battle engine with only three Pokemon evolution lines (the Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle lines, of course). This will limit the number of Pokemon and moves to a manageable size while giving a good, representative amount of diversity to the testing.

The overworld will begin testing with only Pallet Town, the brief path of tall grass to the north, and the short stretch of ocean to the south; but we will make the NPCs in the town battleable to test the integration between the overworld engine and the battle engine.

A note about the é:

Yes, the word should actually be spelled with an accent (Pokémon), which means that the name of this project should be “pokéjs” and the code should include accents wherever the monster or game is mentioned. While the game’s title screen, UI, and dialogue will all use the correct form, I’m an English-speaking American developer, which means that the code itself will be limited to characters that actually appear on my keyboard. A keyboard that doesn’t include é, unfortunately.