Just a few days after launch, Pokemon GO has already proven itself to be a national (and soon worldwide) phenomenon. It’s nearly impossible to walk down any street in supported cities without seeing dozens of people catching Pokemon or capturing gyms. Although the game is doing a fantastic job getting gamers out into the world to explore and be social, there are also some serious safety issues to consider. I only had to play the game for a day or two to see dozens of people putting themselves at risk while playing.
Pokemon GO users are forced to stare a ‘Beware of your surroundings!’ screen every time that they log in and the game’s user agreement makes sure to put the responsibility of safety onto the gamer, not the game. Despite those pleas for safety from Niantic and The Pokemon Company, the addictive mobile AR experience is still prone to lead players straight into danger.
The most common and obvious danger associated with Pokemon GO is players not paying attention to where they are walking while they attempt to earn experience and level up. I only had to look up from my own screen for a minute to see how dangerous this was and I am certainly a bit guilty.
The game’s tracking system encourages users to look down at their phones often to see if they are getting closer or further away from a particular catch and this can make it a little too easy to stare at the phone while walking instead of the path ahead. In the best case scenarios, this leads to walking into a stranger, but near busy streets and construction zones, the risks leap exponentially.
Reports have already come in of one user falling and breaking multiple bones and it could really happen to anyone. While tracking Pokemon, STOP walking and look at the device. It’s not worth risking injury. The game will vibrate if a Pokemon appears to catch, so it’s safe to look away from the screen while on the move.
One of the biggest opportunities for disasters while playing Pokemon GO is operating a vehicle while playing. I’m disappointed to say that while I was out playing I saw tons of people who were obviously playing while driving. People seem determined to text while driving despite the many car accidents and deaths that could have been prevented by putting phones away while in the car, so it’s no surprise that Pokemon GO users could also be tempted.
The exploration aspect of the game makes driving from Pokestop to Pokestop very inciting, but that is dangerous, illegal, and not in the real spirit of the game. Niantic and many police stations have already issued warnings about how foolish and dangerous it is to have the game open while driving. It only takes a momentary lapse of attention to cause a fatal car accident and it would be tragic to lose members of our community this way. Be smart and put the phone away while driving.
Unfortunately, the game can also be dangerous because of outside factors like crime. Luckily I didn’t run into any of these problems while playing, but the risk is certainly there. It’s a sad reality that Pokemon GO is much more dangerous in some city neighborhoods than it is for students at a low crime college campus. Many people live in neighborhoods where it’s not safe to wander around with a cell phone in hand because of robberies and players need to be very careful to stay safe when out Pokehunting. This is true even for players who think they live in a safe area.
There have already been reports of armed robberies at Pokestops where a lure module was used to pull in victims. Playing with a group of friends is much safer than wandering around alone, but even in a big group, stay out of dark areas and places that appear dangerous. The game is all about exploration, but it’s still important to be aware of your surroundings and avoid spots that give off a dangerous vibe.
There are plenty of other risks at play when chasing down Pokemon in GO, but those are a few of the biggest to keep in mind. The game is fantastic at bringing people together, so it would be terrible to see any more people get hurt while playing a game that is meant to bring joy into our lives. Stay safe out there trainers and remember to keep your heads up!
Pokemon GO is currently available in select regions on Android and iOS devices.