Pokemon GO has pulled together communities and families, and allowed some to live out their lifelong dream of being a real Pokemon Master. The game has brought the magic of augmented reality out of the shadows and into the mainstream, setting the stage for the technology to rise alongside its growing compliment and rival, virtual reality. The game has also led people to commit dangerous acts while unaware of their environment, put people in the wrong place at the wrong time, and even gotten people struck by lightning simply because they chose to play instead of go home. In Venezuela, however, Pokemon GO comes with an entirely different and much more dire set of dangers.
The country's economy has all but flatlined, and crime rates are sky-high. Money has been rendered essentially useless, making bartering via material goods a fairly attractive method of getting what you need. Even under a socialist president, money concerns have been bad enough for some that they've turned to a life of crime, and are not above taking lives to get their hands on valuable goods. Pokemon GO requires a myriad array of sensors and a fairly powerful phone, making devices that can play it fairly valuable, and thus a high-priority target for thieves. Amid this climate, the president took to the public to plead with them, saying in a speech that the game is part of a "culture of death created by capitalism…".
A 30-year old owner of a Pokemon GO fan club that gathers in the city of Valencia may not share the president's sentiment, but Luis Vargas is well aware of the game's dangers, and has clear priorities in mind while playing. The attached pictures depict a fairly commonplace practice; disguising the fact that you're playing the game in order to avoid thieves approaching with their eyes on your smartphone. Vargas says of the game, "Your cellphone and your life are worth more than a Pokemon." Lawmaker Freddy Guevara disagrees with the president, saying that Pokemon GO is a "good escape valve" for the pressures of daily life in a country with high crime and on the verge of economic collapse.