This week, two big things happened in the geek community: Advanced Placement test scores were released and the Pokémon Go augmented-reality game debuted on iOS. Besides sharing the same level of international gravitas, the game and the AP scores are similar in that they were released in geographic waves. Before it was available in the U.S., Pokémon Go was downloadable in other parts of the world. Similarly, students in some states got their AP scores before students in others, theoretically to avoid crashing the College Board website. In the past, as noted by Motherboard’s Jason Koebler, students have skirted these restrictions by using virtual private networks, better known as VPNs, which allow you, among other things, to fool an app or website into believing you’re accessing it from another location. (Thus letting a kid in New Jersey find out he did not ace BC Calculus at the same time as a kid in Oregon does.)
This week, searches for VPNs started trending in the Apple app store. But Koebler ventures it’s not panicked high schoolers who are searching for them, but rather frantic gamers hungry to start playing Pokémon Go. (A group which likely includes some crossover from the aforementioned panicked high schoolers.)
The game came out first in Australia and New Zealand, but was unavailable in the US App Store right away (it’s still not available in many countries around the world). While it was possible to use a VPN to download the game early on Android, Apple’s user accounts, which are tied to the region you’re in, made this process slightly more difficult in the United States. To access Pokemon Go early, would-be Pokémon masters had to sign out of their Apple ID, change the region of the App Store to Australia, and create a new Apple ID.
Though it turns out the VPN trick didn’t actually let you skirt Pokémon Go’s download restrictions, it seems likely that many people gave it the old college try anyway. (Meanwhile, high schoolers were using the trick to see if they were ever going to be able to get into college.) Since Pokémon Go is played using your GPS location as you try to, um, catch ‘em all, a VPN could also let players track down Pokémon they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see in their area. Though as more and more people report glitches with the game, it seems like at this point many gamers would settle for just being able to log in and catch a few Pokémon in their own neighborhood, as the Lord intended.