As a member of the Singapore press, we’ve had on occasion been invited for tea at your office where we’re reminded of the guidelines that are placed on publications of any medium in our country.
But now that the minister for communications and information, Dr Yaccob Ibrahim, has suggested that he may want to impose restrictions on Pokémon Go, which is allegedly about to be released in Singapore (see the server status here) , we have to ask you to please keep from censoring the game from our shores. And in fact, while you think about it, you really need to lighten up on those guidelines you place on us. (Guidelines can be seen here.)
First of all, Pokémon Go is a perfect way to teach racial harmony to kids and to encourage inter-racial engagement among the general population. I mean, think about it. Pokémons come in all sorts of colours, shapes, genders and sizes, they have different abilities, they may win or lose in fights. Doesn’t that make them incredibly relatable to a young audience that you’re trying to promote equality to? I can’t think of a better way to help children and young adults understand that just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they should be shunned or bullied.
Second, Pokémon Go is a much better way to resolve differences instead of a fistfight. Just think, two groups are in a quarrel. Would you rather they smack each other up with virtual reality animals or parangs?
Fighting Pokémons’ a better way to resolve issues, no?
If you’re concerned about Pokémons causing road accidents, well you really don’t have to be. The LTA has plenty of officers on the roads who will only be too happy to fine drivers using their phones while driving, and we all know Singaporeans respond best to economic pressure. So just double what the usual penalty is for Pokémon play while driving as compared with, say, talking on the phone, and that will already make sure no one messes around with the system.
But suggesting that a computer game will harm lifestyles or the way things have been done here is a micro-managerial attempt to over-regulate an industry that thrives on crowd popularity and success, translating that into financial ability and innovation. Clamping down on software like augmented reality games at this early point in the development of these products will only serve to deter others from actively pushing the platform forward and achieving greater things.
And if you’re really that concerned about games causing violence or promoting immorality, well, just for your information, GTA V let us drive prostitutes under the wheel, shoot people down, pretty much murder and rob anyone we wanted. Where was the governmental reaction to that?
Remember the angry granny who went berserk on GTA V?
Computer games work like any other private industry, except on a system of volume and popularity, particularly in multiplayer games such as these. The more engagement and use by gamers, the more profitable and therefore the more inventive it can become. By propelling success stories, they not only encourage newcomers to join in, building up a next generation of innovation, but also offer new solutions to others looking to overcome their own technological deficiencies.
Your concern for our civilian well-being is highly touching and certainly borne out of the best of intentions. But being an over-protective and over-regulating governing agent results in a people who are under-exposed to the stark realities of the world that others from different countries face. Like lean startups that embrace minimum viable product development methods, we have to fail quickly in order to learn from our mistakes and come up with a 2.0 version of us that can better handle these issues. Isn’t it better to make those mistakes early than when we’re well into our working life?
Even if themes and content of games or publications are sensitive, is it better to allow a freedom of expression rather than simply cut out all knowledge of it locally, when people can get access to this knowledge from the rest of the world via the Internet? We just risk looking like out of touch fools. Plus, an added bonus of allowing this game is the likelihood that these things will pop up in art galleries, tourist spots, parks, around significant monuments thereby encouraging Singaporeans to go to these spots and gain greater fondness for the country.
Let the public decide. If they want to talk about a topic, they will. And if they don’t it will naturally peter out. Just like the games they play. After all, how long can people chase Pokémons before they realise they will never get a date this way (because you killed the pretty girl’s Pokémon) and go back to swiping people on Tinder?