The game uses augmented reality to place Pokémon in the real world, meaning players or ‘trainers’ need to physically walk around and explore their town or city to find and catch different Pokémon. While the game has been praised for encouraging exercise and getting kids off the couch, the combination of highly distracted players navigating a real world environment has already resulted in several personal injuries, car crashes and even the discovery of a dead body.
Niantic, the company behind the app, must have identified the risk of playing the game, as the first thing that pops up is a message warning users to ‘remember to be alert at all times & stay aware of your surroundings’. Despite the warning, which users must accept before being able to play, there have already been a number of accidents in the short time the game has been out.
While most of the injuries so far have been minor (mostly people walking into windows), there have also been more serious ones, mostly resulting from people playing the game while driving. A Toowoomba woman became the first Aussie to crash their car due to Pokémon Go after she backed into a parked car as she played the game, while in the US a man crashed his car into a marked police car. The man quickly realized his mistake, he was heard saying ‘that’s what I get for playing this dumb-a** game’ on a police body-camera as officers approached the vehicle.
As well as people hurting themselves while playing, there have also been reports of people using the game to harm others. In the US, a gang of criminals set up a ‘lure’ at a ‘Pokéstop’ within the game before robbing 11 youths at gunpoint who were attracted to the lure.
Physical harm isn’t the only risk either, as 19-year-old Shayla Higgins found out after she discovered a dead body floating in her local river while out looking for Pokémon. The teenager saw something floating in front of her before taking another look and realizing it was a body. “I was crying and shaking really badly because it was a very scary situation”, she said. Police are still investigating the cause of the death, but believe it is likely an accidental drowning.
As well as the risks to players, some business and home-owners are also suffering after being designated as ‘Pokéstops’ or ‘gyms’ within the game. The Darwin Police had to issue a statement after players were entering the station looking for Pokéballs, stating that players ‘don’t actually have to step inside to gain the Pokéballs’. Additionally, a man in the US whose home has been accidentally designated a ‘gym’ (where people go to battle their Pokémon) has dealt with dozens of ‘trainers’ arriving at his home to battle at all hours of the day and night. The man is making the best of the situation though, posting regular updates to Twitter and even meeting the ‘owner’ of the ‘gym’.
Despite the negative incidences, the game has been overwhelmingly well received throughout the world, overtaking Tinder, Twitter and Instagram as the most popular app being used today. No one knows how long the craze will last, but one thing is for certain, if you are a budding Pokémon trainer, remember to look up from your phone when crossing the road and never play while driving.
If you do happen to have a Pokémon Go related personal injury, get in touch with GC Law immediately to see what rights you have to make a claim.