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Like Pokémon Go, But Not as Fun Because It’s for Russian Historical Figures

Moscow is launching its own version of Pokémon Go. It doesn't sound as fun.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 20, 2016: A monument to the founder of the city of Oryol, Tsar Ivan the Terrible of Russia, at the Art Project creative workshop. The monument is to be installed in front of Oryol's Young Spectator's Theatre in August 2016 marking the 450th anniversary of the city upon the initiative of Oryol Region Governor Vadim Potomsky. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 20, 2016: A monument to the founder of the city of Oryol, Tsar Ivan the Terrible of Russia, at the Art Project creative workshop. The monument is to be installed in front of Oryol's Young Spectator's Theatre in August 2016 marking the 450th anniversary of the city upon the initiative of Oryol Region Governor Vadim Potomsky. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)

It might theoretically sound like fun to catch and cheerfully fight Snorlax, Pikachu, and Jigglypuff, the strangely cute characters featured in the wildly popular Pokémon Go app.

But according to some Russian officials, walking around the streets hunting for these 3-D animated creatures is satanic. That, and it is having trouble loading on Russian servers, forcing Moscow residents to download it with accounts based abroad if they want to play at all. 

But never fear! By the end of August, Moscow residents can play a much less fun sounding version of Pokémon Go, organized by Moscow’s city government.

It will allow users to catch Russian historical figures like Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and even French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who invaded Moscow in 1812. And instead of fighting the characters, the end goal of the initial version of the game is to take a selfie with them — even ones like Napoleon who was, quite literally a menace to Russian society. (The full game, which will launch at the end of August, may include other features.)

“The goal of the app is to attract attention to Moscow’s rich cultural heritage using fashionable augmented reality technology, as well as give Muscovites a reason to walk around more,” the city government said in a statement on their website Monday.

Sure, the augmented reality might be “fashionable.” But one of the key problems here is that “walking around” is not really the aspect of Pokémon Go that has people excited about it. It’s more about what you’re walking around to do, which is to catch the Pokémon that some Russian officials seem to so desperately want to ban.

Still, for those opposed to Pokémon Go, anything that will distract residents from the original game is a win. Some officials are worried about its ability to track movements and gather information about various locations around the world. “I’m starting to suspect that intelligence services might have contributed to this app,” Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said.

Others have some more extreme concerns. “It feels like the devil arrived through [Pokémon Go] and is trying to tear our morality apart from the inside,” lawmaker Frants Klintsevich has said.

Photo credit: Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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