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Q&A: What you need to know about Pokémon Go

Ahram Online answers key questions on what is Pokémon Go, how to download it, will it breach your privacy, and was it really banned by an Al-Azhar religious edict

Passant Darwish , Wednesday 13 Jul 2016
Pokemon Go
The augmented reality mobile game "Pokemon Go" by Nintendo is shown on a smartphone screen in this photo illustration taken in Palm Springs, California U.S. July 11, 2016 (Reuters)
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Pokémon Go has been a trending topic since it was first released earlier this month, with hashtags peaking for hours on Twitter with gamers wondering how to download the game and wondering how it works.

Here are five key questions and answers on Pokémon Go:

1. What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game. Released by US-based Niantic Labs in early July, it uses GPS, and internet connection and mobile cameras to allow gamers, who are dubbed as "trainers," to catch Pokémon ("pocket monster") creatures in their surroundings.

The application will alert you to a Pokémon presence; you will open your camera and see the Pokémon, which can be anywhere — in your living room, inside your bathtub or serenely smiling at you on your boss's desk.

You then try to catch it by throwing a "Pokéball" at it. You can miss it a few times before finally catching it, or it can escape and you'll have to look for it elsewhere.

Once you catch a Pokémon, you can train it so that it can evolve to become more powerful, fight other Pokémon trainers, and join a "gym" and assign your Pokémon to fight other competing creatures.

It is believed that one of the reasons behind the game's popularity is nostalgia for those who spent their 1990s playing the game and watching the anime series. 

2. How can I get it, and when will it be released in Egypt?

The app can be downloaded free of charge from iOS and Android stores. It also offers in-app purchases of "Pokécoins" to buy "premium items" as Pokéballs to catch the Pokémon.

The app, however, is still not available in Egypt. The game was so popular that its international release was postponed after huge unexpected downloads caused servers to crash.

There is no official release date for Egypt yet. But game developers say they are working on "making it available to more countries in the coming days."

However, you can still download Pokémon Go, in Egypt and elsewhere.

You can either change the location of your mobile phone and download it from your app store or download it from a third party website. The game's developers, however, say third party downloads might contain "malware or viruses."

Many are as excited to know what types of Pokémon will appear in different places in Egypt — what water creatures will appear near the Nile River, what beachgoers will stumble upon on the shores of the Mediterranean and Red Sea, and what Pokémons will appear in desert locations.

Be sure to check Ahram Online regularly. We will announce the game's official release date in Egypt as well as reactions from Egyptian gamers.

3. How well will the game work in Egypt?

In countries where Pokémon Go was released, gamers complained of their mobile batteries getting drained faster. But that issue can be ameliorated in coming updates.

Pokémon Go requires a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. It is uncertain how the game will fare with Egypt's internet that has been described by critics as agonisingly slow.

4. Is there an Islamic fatwa banning Pokemon Go?

Since the game's release, there have been reports that Al-Azhar, the country's highest Sunni Muslim authority, has issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, forbidding Pokémon Go.

These reports are untrue.

However, there was an Islamic edict in 2001 forbidding Muslims from playing the original Pokémon game.

The edict, released by then-Azhar Grand Mufti Nasr Fareed, noted that the game was a "danger to [Muslims] beliefs" as it "instills in the child's mind fictions that have no basis and supernatural [creatures] that don't exist in nature."

The edict also described the Pokémon cartoons as having "Darwinian ideas" of "survival of the strongest."

The game, according to the edict, shouldn't be played because it is based on constant battles and violence, with creatures that use all their abilities and means to destroy the opponent.

Al-Azhar has no executive power, thus children continued to play the original Pokémon game.

But since the edict's release in 2001, thousands of similar games, with supernatural humans and creatures, have been released and cherished by Egyptian children and adults alike. No such edict was released again.

It is still unclear if Al-Azhar will issue an edict against the new Pokemon Go mobile game.

5. Are there privacy concerns?

Security experts in countries where the Pokémon Go was released said that downloading the game on iOS devices, like iPhones and iPads, gives developers full access to all of the user's Google account information.

The game has already been updated and this issue has been fixed.

When the game is released in Egypt, gamers will download the updated version with the revised privacy settings.

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