I can’t believe I’m defending Minister Yaacob Ibrahim’s Pokémon Go comments

It is good to put yourself in other people's shoes sometimes though.

By Jonathan Lim | July 25, 2016

So, The Straits Times published this article, “Government will monitor impact of Pokemon Go on society: Yaacob” that, predictably, got many people riled up.

Many netizens commented that regulators should spend their time and resources looking at other things besides a mobile phone game. Many expressed fear that the government may even ban the game with terms such as “nanny state”, “ban hammer” and “censorship” being tossed around.

Where’s the ban hammer?

But here’s the thing.

Did the Minister of Communication and Information proactively come out to say that he was going to ban the game?

No, he was responding to the media at the National Deaf Games at the Singapore Badminton Hall. The media had asked him whether guidelines would be introduced for the game.

 

What is a minister to do?

As someone who oversees a regulator that screens the media coming into Singapore, what was he supposed to say?

Anyway, this was what he said as reported by ST:

“We have to study very, very carefully whatever that is brought into Singapore … We will monitor the situation, how this particular game is being played and … its impact on society … And if it’s really something which we should be concerned about I think MDA will definitely decide on what are the things we can do best, if the game is really needed here, how… we can do it in such a way that it becomes a win-win situation.”

Note that he didn’t say anything about restricting the game. His comments were actually reiterating what a regulator is supposed to do: Screen something, figure out if it is harmful to society and then decide whether or not Singaporeans can still have meaningful access to it.

The online responses to his comments make it sound as if Yaacob woke up one morning and thought, “Hey let’s ban this game for sh*ts and giggles.”

Sure, many people want a liberal regulator who says “Yes” to everything, but that’s not the reality we are in.

Even the most liberal people wouldn’t want to watch some of the most objectionable content on the Internet (such as child porn).

It is the people and media who get things banned

ST’s latest article on Pokémon Go had also reported that Japan issued a “safety guide warning of heat stroke, dubious strangers and other risks” for players of the game.

It also said Indonesian officials called the game a “security threat”, while some people in Egypt and Russia called the game a plot by spy agencies.

With the media constantly carrying reports of how some Pokémon Go players are apparently trespassing on property while others get themselves hurt playing the game, it feeds into this hysteria machine that Pokémon Go may be humanity’s downfall.

The regulator usually restricts/ curbs things only when it receives feedback from the public. With the media going into a tizzy reporting the downsides of the game — while also publishing hysterical letters from members of the public suggesting Pokémon Go can be used by terrorists — can we blame the regulator for being extra cautious in allowing things?

Besides the media, when the game does go live in Singapore, it is also up to the players themselves to ensure that they give the authorities no reason to curtail the game.

That means not stupidly trespassing on private property, and keeping their eyes open when walking around with their phones.

That way we can all enjoy the game sans regulation.

 

Top photo of Yaacob Ibrahim via Facebook & Pokeball

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