If the past couple of weeks have taught us anything, it’s that Pokémon crazed fans in China will go to extreme lengths to play Pokémon Go… and rightfully so.
Following the long-awaited release of Pokémon Go in Japan, servers have been overwhelmed by the massive influx of players… from China. While most gamers have only invaded Japanese servers simply to play the game, others are using that access for more nationalistic purposes.
Some Chinese players monopolized certain Pokémon gyms in Japan on release day, annoying local players. In particular a Chinese player with a Pokémon nicknamed “Long Live China!” took over a gym located at the infamous Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including those executed as war criminals after World War II. A pic of the patriotic Dragonite found its way onto Reddit, where it became the top post on the Pokémon Go sub-forum.
Still, while the actions of a select few may have tarnished the reputation of Chinese gamers in this instance, the majority simply want to find any way to play the game in peace and harmony. Shortly after being released in Japan, the game also made its debut in Hong Kong, coming as a pleasant surprise to fans who thought the release date was still a long way off.
This is also a fortuitous occurrence for Chinese gamers. Previously, they had been forced to rely on domestic knockoffs to scratch their Pokémon Go itch, now they just have to cross the border to find Pokémon roaming everywhere.
Another way that fans have managed to access the game is via other countries’ servers. According to Tech in Asia, to do this, a player needs to have a VPN to download the app and a Google account to use game’s mapping features. Google remains blocked in China, making a mainland release very unlikely, especially considering the high priority China places on military secrets. To run without Google, Niantic Labs would have to completely restructure the game to function with a Chinese GPS server.
All that trouble may just not be worth it for the developer, even to access the giant Chinese mobile gaming market. But, all Chinese gamers can do is wait and see, and maybe cause a few minor international incidents in the meantime.
By Robin Winship