More and more "zombies" turning up in Vietnam

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/8/23 18:27:53

At midnight at a park in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, hundreds of local adults were standing motionless or meandering ahead seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, with their eyes fixated on something invisible to regular humans.

Just hours earlier, dozens of Vietnamese people, mostly youngsters, flocked to big lakes in the capital city of Hanoi, including Sword Lake and West Lake, as well as upscale shopping malls and apartments, with some of them swinging their arms in ways betraying their anthropomorphic appearance.

And at noon the same day, a large number of people, both Vietnamese and foreigners, were standing in a statue garden in the central city of Da Nang under the scorching sun, looking, for the best part, utterly lifeless.

As more and more of these "zombies" are being spotted nationwide, questions are being asked as to whether a zombie apocalypse has begun in the Southeast Asian country.

Other theories hold that the apocalyptic scenes are in fact just "gamers" involved in the new boom gripping the world known as Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is a location-based augmented reality game, developed by Japanese firm Niantic for iOS and Android devices.

In the free game, players use a GPS-enabled mobile device to locate, capture, train and battle 250 virtual creatures called Pokemon that appear on the device's screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the players.

The game officially appeared in Vietnam on Aug. 6, bringing with it not only a lot of fun, but also a degree of public nuisance.

In Ho Chi Minh City, gamers, mostly white-collar workers and students, often embark on their Pokemon hunting journeys in large groups, and their favorite destinations are parks, including Tao Dan in District No.1 and Le Thi Rieng in District No. 10. They often go to the parks in the late afternoon and stay there until midnight.

Hundreds of these gamers can be seen gathering inside Tao Dan Park, clutching their smartphones and being thoroughly absorbed by throwing balls in the game to capture Pokemon, which come in the forms of animated fish, birds, rats, rhinos and butterflies.

Outside the park, near its fences, dozens more gamers park their motorbikes and enter the world of Pokemon.

Around 10:00 p.m. local time, Tao Dan's loudspeaker booms, "Time is up for visitors in the park. Please leave." However, few people pay attention, let alone follow the request, and most of the gamers don't leave the park until around 2:00 a.m. each morning.

"Pokemon Go players come here all day and night, especially between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. and while they don't actually bite they certainly look like zombies in the films I have watched," Tran Van Su, Tao Dan Park's watchman, told Xinhua on Monday.

The situation is similar in the riverside Bach Dang Park, which used to be a favorite rendezvous for young lovers.

"Fewer and fewer couples are coming to Bach Dang Park, because the influx of 'zombies' there has killed the tranquil and romantic environment," the middle-aged watchman sighed.

Unlike Pokemon Go fans in Ho Chi Minh City, their peers in Hanoi often venture out in small groups, and their hunting grounds are mostly big lakes and historical places such as Van Mieu (Literature Temple), the first university in Vietnam. Meanwhile, gamers in Da Nang prefer strolling along the Han River or gathering in the statue garden on Bach Dang Road to capture the elusive virtual creatures.

While many Saigonese gamers play Pokemon Go at night for hours to avoid the daytime heat, their peers in Hanoi and Da Nang seem to be keen on spending part of their short lunchtime and time after work to hunt down the creatures.

At noon or in the late afternoon, the statue garden in Da Nang is full of Pokemon hunters. There are no tall trees there, meaning the many hunters are standing or sitting in the direct sunlight, waiting for animated wild animals to turn up on their phones' screens. While playing the game, many are still wearing helmets or facial masks.

In response to why grown adults would put up with such scoring hit and long hours involved just to play a game, aficionados from the three cities told Xinhua that there are two main reasons.

Firstly, the game requires players to physically move to catch Pokemon or hatch their eggs, so it acts as a motivator for white-collar workers, especially coach potatoes, to leave their offices or houses which is good for their health. It also encourages them to go to places of interest in the real world to catch Pokemon or engage in battles in the game.

Secondly, Pokemon Go's modern and challenging features such as allowing players to take photos of cute, funny, scary and lovely animated creatures with real-life backgrounds, and to claim symbolic structures in the real world as their own in the game, and then fight against other players to defend them, has also been cited as one of the game's big lures.

"Hunting Pokemon while jogging makes my exercise less tiring and less boring," Nguyen Thi Hao, a full-figured managing editor of the Vietnam Post newspaper, told Xinhua, while walking around Van Quan Lake in Hanoi.

Hao said many of her colleagues share her views, but noted that their teenage children do not play the game.

"Many boys opt for multiplayer online battle arena games such as League of Legends, while girls prefer chit-chatting on social networks like Facebook," she said, adding that if teenagers were to become absorbed in playing Pokemon Go like many adults, a lot of trouble could occur, especially those relating to traffic safety and public order.

Pokemon Go is designed to be played by pedestrians and bus, train or subway passengers. But in Vietnam, the most popular means of transport are motorbikes, which means that many local people ride their motorbikes and play Pokemon Go at the same time.

"I often play Pokemon Go on the way to my university and on the way back home. In other words, I ride my motorbike with one hand, and hold my smartphone with the other. To receive items or capture animals in the game, I often have to ride on the pavements, or suddenly stop my motorbike on the street," Tran Tuong The, a student at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, told Xinhua.

For such traffic law violations, the young man is sometimes given fines of 100,000-200,000 Vietnamese dong (around 7 US dollars) by local police.

In addition to breaking traffic rules, Pokemon Go players in Vietnam have sometimes become victims of more serious offenses. Some cases of thieves snatching smartphones and running away have been reported in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Captain Nguyen Minh Duc of the Hanoi Police Department said, "The actual number of Pokemon Go players having their smartphones stolen must be higher than reported, because few victims report their cases to police."

To minimize traffic accidents and public disorder caused by rampant Pokemon Go playing, Vietnamese authorities at central and local levels have taken some preventative measures recently.

Ho Chi Minh City's Transport Department has displayed the warning, "No Pokemon Go while on the road" on 44 electronic boards across the city.

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications has recently advised the game's fans to follow five principles, including paying due attention to protecting personal data on their smartphones, and not approaching restricted areas such as military bases.

"Some countries have completely or partly banned Pokemon Go for different reasons, but it is very hard for Vietnam to follow suit. Banning it will restrict the right for freedom to conduct a business," said local lawyer Truong Anh Tu.

Posted in: Video Games

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