Death, destruction, fatal crashes, and murder are just some of the tall tales you can find online about Pokémon Go.
Whether or not you are a fan of the game, there are ridiculous lengths "children" (age 6 to age 65) go to, in order to "catch 'em all". Sometimes, the "hunt" becomes dangerous, but we don't need to make up or believe tragic stories about Pokémon Go to scare people away from it; the actual dangers of Pokemon Go are real enough.
The Real Dangers of Pokemon Go
The real dangers of Pokemon go, from real news sources, involving real people and real (fake) Pokémon, include:
- Car Crashes
- Armed Robberies/Muggings
- Personal Injuries
There have been a number of low-speed fender benders caused by drivers playing Pokémon Go. I specify "low-speed' because distracted drivers tend to lift their foot slightly from the gas peddle, assuming that that alone will prevent them from colliding with other vehicles. From a gamer's perspective, driving too fast makes it too hard for them to:
- Get freebies at "PokéyStops": it takes about 2 full seconds to activate a stop, and then they have to spin it to life, all without passing too quickly from one side to the other.
- Snag Pokémon: Pokémon pop-up when players get close, they have to be right on top of a Pokémon to even see it, and if they get too far from it, it disappears. Often, if a 'passenger' activates a Pokémon and catches it while the car is moving, the app will freeze and they'll have to close it and start it over again.
- Hatch Eggs: Pokémon eggs can be incubated and hatched, but only by walking a specific distance. The game uses the phone's GPS and accelerometers to make sure that the right distance is traveled, and that it is done at a walking pace. If a Pokémon hunter is moving too fast, the game will not log the distance.
So, Pokémon hunters tend to drive slowly, while breaking the law. That doesn't make them safe, just less dangerous. They might roll into an intersection without noticing, or rear-end another car on a Washington Highway. They may even get caught on a Police officer's body camera smashing into said officer's parked patrol car. Fortunately, the car was empty and no one was seriously injured.
If you are struck by a Pokémon hunter's vehicle, make no mistake, the person and not the game, is to blame. You can see from the examples above that Pokémon Go was designed to get people on their feet and interacting with the world around them. If someone is using it incorrectly and you get injured, then that person is a cheater (the game warns against misuse), a liar (the MVD demands your attention while driving in exchange for a license), and a fool. You have violated your duty of care owed to the world around you and caused injuries that will need to be treated. Don't trust your health to liars, cheats, or fools. Call the authorities and get the offender's information.
Armed Robberies and Muggings
As a parent, the idea of my children being lured into real danger while playing a game makes me angry. This happened recently in Missouri. A few teenagers with a gun and a cell phone were behind ten or eleven armed robberies and/or muggings at PokéyStops in O'Fallon, Missouri.
Anyone with an account and a few dollars can buy a "Lure" at a nearby PokéyStop. It can be done day or night and it attracts Pokémon, making it a popular place for people to come and visit.
It is assumed that the criminals in the above story were caught because their Pokémon accounts, Google accounts, and iTunes accounts (used for in-app purchases of things like "Lures") were all recorded inside the game. There is a "Journal" associated with each player's account showing every interaction and the time it was made. If you can see it in your account, the game makers can see it too.
If you want to stay safe, make sure that you play in public and well-lit places. Don't let your children go too far on their own or stay out too late at night. These are not novel ideas and they are not guaranteed to keep you safe. If you are attacked, call the police. Keep in touch with them and press charges when the attackers are caught.
Emotional injuries are real. You have private and public rights that an injury lawyer can help you defend. The offender's punishment and making restitution to you are separate issues and won't be handled at the same time; if you don't press, your injury won't be addressed at all.
You might go through your days without incident. As a hunter or bystander, you will probably be safe. But if something does happen don't be afraid, or ashamed of taking action.
If you are hurt or if your property is damaged, get help to seek proper restitution. Good luck, and safe hunting.