Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Pokemon Go, the latest game to have taken the world by storm. The game has nearly 10 million daily players in the United States. Pokemon Go is a fun way for players to exercise and explore their communities, but there are risks associated with this new game.
Pokemon Go is an “augmented reality” game where players use their phones to capture Pokemon and collect Pokemon eggs by walking in real world locations. Pokemon are “trained” by capturing similar Pokemon. Eggs are hatched by walking set distances, between two and ten kilometers per egg. Every player joins one of three teams, with the goal of battling in gyms that are located at landmarks, such as monuments and places of cultural significance, and locations where people congregate, such as churches and grocery stores.
Pokemon Go provides a number of benefits to players. First, the game requires players to go outside and exercise. Many doctors recommend the game since it promotes exercise and cardiovascular health. Second, since gyms are located at landmarks and areas where people congregate, players are given the opportunity to explore their communities and socialize with other players. Many people, especially those with autism, are engaging in ways they never did before playing. Third, Pokemon players are a fresh source of traffic for brick and mortar businesses. Many businesses have found great success by encouraging players to play while they visit. Also, some animal shelters have successfully started dog walking programs for players wanting to hatch their Pokemon eggs.
Although the game is great fun and provides positive opportunities for players, a number of problems have arisen. Players have played the game in inappropriate locations, trespassed on private property, been injured playing in unsafe conditions, endangered others by playing Pokemon while driving, been robbed, been the target of kidnapping, and even assaulted.
Initially, many Pokemon gyms and other in-game features were placed in inappropriate locations, such as hospitals, graveyards, and memorials. Some of these locations included the Holocaust Memorial and the National September 11 Memorial. Niantic, the creator of Pokemon Go, has already removed many of these locations and is working to remove more. Players should not play in such inappropriate locations; they should try to maintain proper levels of respect and reverence.
While social considerations may not result in legal repercussions, there are many locations that could result in more serious trouble. Some locations have seen increases in noise and littering; at other times, overzealous players have trespassed private property in their quest to play. Many players have been issued tickets because of illegal parking. Some military installations, government buildings, and private businesses have banned the game due to privacy and security concerns. Regardless of how enjoyable the game is, people should respect the law.
Some players have been injured while walking in unsafe locations. The Bosnian government issued a tongue-in-cheek, though perfectly valid, warning about wandering into minefields while playing. Whether accidentally walking into traffic or walking around a dangerous area such as a body of water or a construction zone, the risk of personal injury is very real.
Playing Pokemon Go While Driving
Playing Pokemon Go while driving is extremely dangerous. By now, everyone should be aware of the dangers associated with texting and driving; in many states, this is a serious offense that can result in tickets, jail time, or driver’s license revocation. Playing a game while driving is just as, if not more, dangerous than being distracted by a phone call or text. If a person must play while driving, they should have a passenger run the game while they drive through empty parking lots or low traffic side roads with speed limits that accommodates the game’s restriction that movement is only counted when the player is going under 10 miles per hour. Players should never attempt to operate the game while driving or to drive under the 10 mile per hour threshold on roads with higher speed limits.
Another safety concern is robbery. In St. Louis, four armed would-be robbers used an in-game beacon to entice their victims to a parking lot. They were suspects in similar incidents from two other counties. Players should be wary of isolated areas and should always be aware of their surroundings, never exploring alone. They should always stay in safe areas, always stay in groups, and never get too distracted by the game.
Personal safety should always be a top priority. One young teen reported that she was nearly abducted while playing in the wee hours of the morning. While she was lucky to have found helpful bystanders to prevent disaster, others may not be. Parents, especially those of small children, should monitor their kids, never letting them roam while unattended. Even if the risk seems small, don’t gamble with safety.
Even more sinister than abduction is the threat of assault or death. In Las Vegas one group of six players, some with concealed-carry permits, became involved in a shootout with the occupants of a SUV during a robbery gone wrong. One person from each group was treated for non-lethal gunshot wounds.
KC Road Lawyers is always here to fight for you and your rights. No matter if you sustained a personal injury in a traffic accident or while catching Pokemon, contact us for a free consultation.