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By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

Pokémon Go Banned in Iran

First Country to Ban the Popular Augmented Reality Game


August 10, 2016

Iran doesn't want any of those digital critters corupting the minds of its citizens.

Iran has become the first country in the world to ban Pokémon Go.

BBC reports that the Iranian High Council for Virtual Spaces, which is tasked with regulating the nation's internet, has banned the game over "security concerns."

The High Council was not specific about those concerns, but the strict regime is generally afraid of anything that encourages large gatherings of people. While other countries have struggled with criminal issues that have arisen in connection the wildly popular game, none have forbidden it altogether.

Earlier this week, authorities in New York state announced a ban for some 3,000 registered sex offenders while they are on parole as a means of safeguarding children who are playing the game.

Indonesia does not allow police officers to play the game while on duty, and a French player was arrested in July after wandering onto a military base in pursuit of one of the virtual Pokémon monsters.

A leading Saudi cleric said a fatwa (religious ruling) issued 16 years ago against a Pokémon card game also applied to the new mixed-reality app. The edict said the game contained "forbidden images" and violated an Islamic ban on gambling. A fatwa's influence generally does not carry beyond his own region, and is not applicable to the whole country.

Pokémon Go hasn't been officially released in Iran, but many gamers have managed to download it through third-party sources. Now players will have to keep a careful watch if they want to avoid arrest.

The Iranian government has strict control on the population's use and access to the internet. Many popular sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked for most citizens, though some tech-savvy users have managed to get around the blocks.

News of the Iranian ban comes just as game maker Niantic launched Pokémon Go in 15 new markets in Asia including Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. It is now available for download in about 90 countries, with more on the way.

In Pokémon Go, players hunt for virtual monsters.

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use a mobile device's GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items.

Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews, with critics praising the game's concept and the incentive to be more active in the real world, while criticizing frequent technical issues apparent at launch. Despite such reviews, it quickly became a global phenomenon and one of the most used mobile apps, reportedly having been downloaded by more than 100 million people worldwide. It is credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality gaming, as well as for promoting physical activity. However, it has also attracted controversy for contributing to accidents and becoming a public nuisance at some locations.


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