The heyday for Pokémon Go headlines has long since passed, but it turns out that in 2016, Canada’s military ordered officers to play the game after civilians kept wandering onto bases in pursuit of Pokémon.
The news comes from CBC News which obtained 471 pages of documents nearly three-and-a-half years after filing an access to information request. The internal documents paint a picture of baffled military officials, as well as multiple incidents of ordinary folks unwittingly wandering into military bases.
In one instance, two men were found driving in a van suspiciously near the edge of the Canadian Forces Base North Bay near Toronto. The men turned out to be chasing after a Pikachu, which led them onto the air force base. In another instance, a woman and her three children were found climbing over tanks at Worthing Tank Park. Yet another man was stopped near a military museum. When questioned by officers, he reportedly said, “I have to beat my kids [get more points].”
Perhaps more amusing are emails between military officials while trying to figure out what exactly Pokémon Go was. “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a PokeGym and a PokeStop. I will be completely honest in that I have no idea what that is,” wrote Major Jeff Monaghan from CFB Kingston. David Levenick, a security expert at CFB Borden in Ontario, also wrote, “The game’s premise seems to be going to the ‘PokeStops/Gyms’ to collect ‘Pokemon’s’ (we should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this) of which we were able to find 5 of these things on the range road itself.”
While it doesn’t appear the Canadian military recruited any 12-year-olds, the documents do indicate that at least three military police officers were ordered to download the game and wander around bases looking for potential PokéStops and gyms.
Understandably, some military officials were peeved at the civilian intrusion. Officials at the CFB North Bay base filed a complaint with Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go on July 21, 2016. Others, however, leaned into the game’s popularity as a way to boost the number of visitors at military museums. At the CFB Halifax base, Rear Admiral John Newton wrote an email suggesting removing one PokéStop at a potential security risk location but adding one near a museum entrance to boost attendance.
The response overall is pretty much what you’d expect—a wholesome blast from the not-too-distant past. And while the Pokémon Go craze has largely died down since launching, there are still a few diehards out there. Plus, earlier this year, Pokémon released a tie-in game called Pokémon Sleep that encourages users to sleep better. That tracks with the whole schtick that Pokémon Go was supposed to increase healthy behaviours, even though a study also showed the game had caused more than 100,000 traffic accidents by the end of 2017.