Pokemon Go Conspiracy Theorists Think It's a Spy Tool for Uncovering Chinese Military Bases

By Gerald Lynch on at

Have you been playing Pokemon Go? Of course you have – even if you just popped it on your phone and caught the one Pokemon you can find while sat at home in your pants, it's been a phenomenal mobile gaming hit after just a week of release, with millions of players across the globe hunting Nintendo's colourful monsters. But not everyone is taking so kindly to the AR game.

Specifically, there's a growing number of Chinese conspiracy theorists who believe the location-based mobile game is actually a ploy by American and Japanese governments to uncover China's hidden military bases.

Related: Here's What Playing Pokemon Go is Like for a 42-Year-Old Man Living on a Remote Island

"Don't play Pokemon GO!!!" pleads user Pitaorenzhe on Chinese microblogging site Weibo. "It's so the U.S. and Japan can explore China's secret bases!"

Tinfoil hat at the ready? The conspiracy theorists believe that the way Pokemon Go is played can allow users to deduce the locations of uncharted military installations. Reliant on Google Maps, game developers Niantic can place rare Pokemon in areas players aren't going. If a rare Pokemon hasn't been captured in an accessible location for a long time, you can deduce that it sits in a restricted area.

"Then, when war breaks out, Japan and the U.S. can easily target their guided missiles, and China will have been destroyed by the invasion of a Japanese-American game," reads one particularly inflammatory Weibo post.

As much as secret Pokemon-led invasion of China sounds like the exact kind of fan-fiction fodder I'd love to read, it's not even possible, let alone likely. China has Google's services banned, so it's unlikely that Pokemon Go, reliant on Google's Maps, could ever get a Chinese release in its current state. The definition of "restricted" zones is a little wooly too – how many would venture into, say, a power station or sewage treatment plant just to catch a Geodude or Bulbasaur? Smoke without fire here, to the point where Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang has already brushed off the claims. [Reuters]