Everywhere you look people are either playing or talking about Pokémon Go. Parks, landmarks, and public areas of every sort across the world are filled with people trying to “catch ‘em all.” This immensely popular smart phone game has influenced people to exercise outdoors, explore new places in their communities, and meet new people who also play the game. But in spite of these positive effects, the game also poses some serious concerns.
You might have heard about a massive highway pileup that was supposedly caused by a careless driver trying to catch an elusive Pokémon while driving. This story turned out to be a hoax, but there are countless real-life instances of people getting hurt while playing the game. Is it only a matter of time before a serious accident like the mythical highway pileup happens?
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality game available on your iPhone or Android device. The game is free to download and play, but you can spend money on in-app purchases that make the game easier. Originally released in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, the game is now available in over 30 countries and counting.
Niantic (whose founder worked on Google maps) and the Pokémon Company (which is partially owned by Nintendo) created the game. The game consists of trying to catch and level-up 150 different tiny creatures called Pokémon. The game uses the concept of augmented-reality to impose parts of the game (the Pokémon themselves) into real-world locations. This means you can look “through” your smart phone and see a wild Snorlax sitting on your couch or even a Ponyta running through your backyard.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Pokémon games were available on Nintendo gaming platforms like the Game Boy and Nintendo DS. These games were extremely popular, but Pokémon’s popularity waned over time. The recently-released Pokémon Go app signals the return of Pokémon fever once again.
How do you Play Pokémon Go and why is it so distracting?
Pokémon Go tracks a player’s real-world location through their phone’s GPS function. Players use their phones to look at a real-world map, similar to a Google Map, while playing Pokémon Go. In the game, real-life locations like landmarks and churches are designated Pokéstops and Gyms where players can collect items to catch Pokémon and battle other players.
Areas where Pokémon are likely to show up are marked on the map, so players can head in that direction. Moving in real life moves your Pokémon Go avatar in the game. Players view the “augmented Pokémon world” through their phone screens. Because Pokémon may quickly appear while walking, players often focus on their cell phone screens while walking instead of looking where they are going. This indifference to real-world surroundings is what is causing all the trouble.
The Real-Life Risks of Playing Pokémon Go
When the Pokémon Go app launches on your phone, the loading screen reminds players to “remember to be alert at all times” and “stay aware of your surroundings.” In spite of these warnings, players have been getting hurt.
Everything from minor cuts and bruises to serious injuries have been reported. Some of the most common injuries include sunburn and blisters from walking outdoors. There’s even a report of two men in their early 20s who were hospitalized after falling off of a 50- foot cliff in California while playing the game.
In addition to potential injuries, there is a legal concern you should be aware of if you decide to play the game. Before they were injured, the two men who fell down the cliff in California climbed a fence and trespassed on private property in their quest to catch Pokémon. Just because there is an icon on the game map does not mean you can legally visit the location. You might be wondering how people get so distracted that they do things like this. The fact is that using your phone for applications like Pokémon or even texting can alter your brain waves. The best advice is to be aware of your surroundings while playing and never trespass or congregate on private property.
The Biggest Danger: Driving While Playing Pokémon Go
We already know that texting while driving is incredibly dangerous. In almost every state, it is illegal to text or surf the internet on your phone while driving. So it goes without saying that playing Pokémon Go while behind the wheel of a car is a bad idea. But the distance between Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms in the game can make speed appealing to players.
Luckily, using GPS locations, the game knows when you are driving as opposed to walking based on the speed you are traveling. If a player is traveling over 20 mph, certain game functions will not work. For example, players collect Pokémon eggs which hatch into Pokémon after they have taken so many steps with the game open. Distance traveled in a car does not count towards steps to hatch those eggs.
Safety Tips & Help if You Are Injured
Whether you are playing Pokémon Go or simply going about your day, it is a good idea to be aware of your surroundings. Players should avoid stepping into traffic or wandering onto private property. Non-players should be cognizant of the fact that people are playing the game and some are probably not paying close attention.
In particular, if you are driving near Boulder campuses, be on the lookout for large groups of people gathered around playing the game together. College campuses are accident prone areas. More distracted students only increases the risk of calamity. People are hunting for Pokémon at night, at work, and even in the middle of dinner. Undoubtedly, the game’s popularity will fade. In the meantime, everyone should do their part to keep their families and friends safe. And of course, stay alert to new technologies and media developments that may affect public safety in the future. Pokémon Go certainly will not be the last augmented-reality game craze.
If you are in an injury accident caused by a negligent party playing Pokémon Go, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages. Contact the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya for help: 303-758-4777.