1. The Pokemon anime sends 700 kids to the hospital
We're starting this list with a bit of an outlier. Most instances of people freaking out about Japan's pocket monster craze are no more than a collection of old folks worried that anime destroys good ol' American values. The joke's on them, because anime already did that a long time ago. There is, however, very little to actually find funny about the phenomenon called "Pokémon Shock."
The incident occurred way the hell back in 1997 -- right around the time that Pokémon was first stealing our hearts, and parents' wallets. In fact, it was the popularity of the franchise, in particular its televised anime series, that probably caused problems in the first place. In this case, the "problem" was around 700 Japanese kids getting sent to the hospital over a cartoon.
On an otherwise unassuming Tuesday night over four million kids were watching the 38th episode of the show's first season. The episode, called "Denn? Senshi Porygon," or Cyber Soldier Porygon, sported series protagonists Ash, Misty, Brock, and of course Pikachu getting Tron'd up entering the digital frontier. That is, they become digitized to stop recurring villains Team Rocket from stealing Pokémon inside transfer machine computers. That old chestnut.
The setup is pretty innocuous, and actually helps explain how in the world Pokémon can shrink to sit inside Pokéballs, and be traded over long distances: they're literally being digitized.
Things only got bad around two-thirds of the way through the 30-minute program. At one point, Pikachu does what Pikachu do and launches an electric attack. The shot explodes a load of digital missiles sent to kill a "computer virus" that's actually our gang of heroes. The resultant cyber-explosion manifested as incredibly fast-red-and blue strobe lights. You know, the kind that can trigger epilepsy.
And so they did. There's no official count of how many viewers were affected. Some only had minor issues like headaches, while others got the full epileptic seizure treatment. We do know that 685 kids were admitted to hospitals around the country, and the Pokémon anime went off the air for four months as a result. Since then the episode has never been rebroadcast, and despite not being the source of the issue the episode's signature 'mon Porygon hasn't held center stage on the show since.
2. The false panic of Pokemon Go
If you haven't heard about Pokémon Go yet -- say if you're Amish, or were living in the Kimmy Schmidt bunker until recently -- it's the latest iteration of the world-storming franchise on smartphones. You walk around. You stumble into Pokémon. You throw balls at them. Sometimes you tap them really fast to become sovereign of the local liquor store, politically charged graffiti, or strip club. Of course, it's also incredibly popular. Which means that some of the most predictable fury has come from the players' themselves. We're talking silly things like getting so worked up over a game you hadn't even played yet that you lose your job -- like this guy.
Sonny Truyen had just moved to Singapore from Australia when Pokémon Go launched. Since at the time you could download the game in one of those countries, but not the other, Mr. Truyen felt a bit cheated (three guesses as to which country was which). Like many before him he took his seething opinions to Facebook. Unlike most, we imagine, he blamed the country of Singapore -- not Niantic -- for his predicament, calling it a "piece of fucking shit country" in the process.
Stage two of his master plan to get the game released where he lived was to be immediately fired for his comments. At least we hope it was part of his plan, because that's what happened. Eventually the game was released in Singapore, as well as many more territories, and we can all thank Sonny for making it possible. Probably.
Sonny Truyen is just an example of players who took, and likely continue to take, the game way too seriously. Just look at the clueless trainers who pissed people off at Arlington National Cemetery, and the freaking Holocaust museum. Any major fad is going to have a lot of growing pains as the world slowly marches towards not caring anymore. Players like these, however, make that day seem all too far away.
Really, though, the best Pokémon Go responses come from the people who have no idea what they're talking about. For that kind of grade-A bandwagon jumping look no further than your local politicians, befuddled city workers, and -- god help us -- political cartoonists.
That said, some warnings against Pokémon Go have been less "cringe worthy" and more "won't someone please save us from this horrible cyberpunk hell we live in?" So if someone warns you against letting the game inadvertently lead you to a corpse, or actual armed robbers, they might have a point.