If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go, you are living under a rock. This game has gone viral and divided the human population into two groups: The people who are playing it and the people who have heard about it.
This cellphone game is distinctive in that it makes the player get outside and go places. The goal is to catch monsters called “pokémon.” In order to find pokémon, you must walk around in the real world while guided by a map on your phone. Rustling leaves will appear on the map to indicate where pokémon are hiding. Wild pokémon will also appear out of nowhere as you walk. Once you encounter a pokémon, you stop and throw a pokéball at it to attempt to catch it. You can run out of pokéballs and replenish them by visiting pokéstops, which are physical locations chosen from places of public interest, such as trendy cafes, libraries, churches, works of public art, and water towers. Some of these public places are also gyms, where pokémon can battle each other.
Obviously, walking around the real world with your head buried in your cellphone is not the safest thing to do. Pokémon Go warns players every time it opens: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” These words are accompanied by a big red warning exclamation mark and a picture of a Gyarados rearing up to attack a Pokémon Go player who is distracted by his phone.
I would have thought that the biggest danger point of the game is that it causes people to wander into the road and stop. It’s easy to imagine how this happens: You are walking around, staring at your phone for indication on whether you’re getting closer to a rustling patch of leaves, when a wild pokémon appears. Instinctively, you freeze where you’re at to engage in battle. And if you were in the middle of crossing a road… well…
I actually was only able to find a couple incidents where a player was hit by a car, one in which the pedestrian and the driver were both playing Pokémon Go. The biggest issue is people getting robbed. Pretty much any game can cause you to lose situational awareness, but only Pokémon Go actively encourages you to be out in public when this happens. Plus, it is possible for criminals who have Pokémon Go to identify locations where players will go (the pokéstops) and can even use powerups to boost the rewards offered by the pokéstops in order to attract more victims. I am actually going to use this method myself to attract potential customers to pitch high-data cellphone service to.
Sometimes it’s the criminals who find themselves at a disadvantage, however. Recall that pokéstops and gyms are selected from popular local landmarks. One Pokémon Go player who had a warrant out for his arrest followed the symbols on his phone to a gym that turned out to be a police station.
While there have been many robberies at gunpoint, one Pokémon Go player pulled out his own gun and shot his robber in the stomach.
Some of my readers will be interested to know that a brawl broke out among players in Hudson Falls. There have been other incidents where Pokémon Go players have attacked each other, including a seven-person knife fight between two rival teams in Germany. A man is being hunted by police for beating his niece over an argument about a gym.
There have also been incidents where players have been attacked by people who thought they were robbing houses or recording people. These misunderstandings can easily occur when Pokémon Go players wander onto property to get close to pokémon and hold up their phones to position the pokémon for capture.
People are not the only danger to Pokémon Go players. One player was so busy staring at his phone that he stepped on a copperhead. Others have fallen to their deaths or drowned at pokéstops located close to natural attractions.
Perhaps the most dangerous threat to people playing Pokémon Go? The players themselves. Several players have crashed their cars while playing Pokémon Go while driving, many times while drunk as well.
It is never a good principle to let fear control your actions, however. Plenty of people continue to play Pokémon Go despite the risks. One man in Oregon even continued to play the game after he was stabbed, refusing treatment so he could catch pokémon.
What is the most dangerous game? The eponymous short story claims it is humans themselves. And Pokémon Go has certainly supported that assertation.