Stabbings, robberies, trespassing, a dead body? This is not the 6 o'clock news.
It's the stark reality of the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go. Where players catch Pokemon by physically going to areas called PokeStops.
Hidden Dangers Playing Pokemon Go
Pokemon aren't the only characters hiding at these PokeStops. Criminals are too. They're lurking at PokeStops, and robbing and assaulting people who are looking for Pokemon.
Even getting to the PokeStops can cause hazards. Drivers are staring at their cell phones while driving in an attempt to catch Pokemon. And it's causing car wrecks. Some have even stopped their cars in the middle of the road for a catch!
People have walked into streets, zombie-like, with their eyes glued to their phones and been hit by cars. They've wandered onto military firing ranges, crashed weddings and even funerals for a catch. Sadly, a teenaged boy was shot and killed while playing near Guatemala City late at night.
Just like a real scavenger hunt, this virtual hunt can be delightfully addictive! Pokemon Go allows you to enter the world of augmented reality through an app that uses GPS and augmentation technology to enable players to search for nearby Pokemon. The object of the game is to "catch 'em all."
It also offers a way for gamers and screen jockeys - anyone, really - to get up, get out, and get moving.
Within the first two weeks of the game's July 5, 2016 release, the app topped 15 million downloads, surpassing Facebook and Snapchat. Many churches and businesses have been promoting the app by becoming a PokeStop or by informing players of a Pokemon at their location in order to increase traffic and attention to their site.
Gotta Catch 'em All!
The app requires that you walk around to locate Pokemon, so the game has been described as a great way to explore points of interest in your town or other areas. And it has been described as a great way to meet people or get some exercise. By looking at your phone screen, you can see the character superimposed onto your actual surroundings - just like you see in the image here.
Our headquarters overlooks the Durham Bulls Baseball Stadium, and we got to see first-hand how addictive this game can be when they opened the stadium to the public and dozens of Pokemon seekers of all ages converged on the baseball field to catch Pokemon. And not all Pokemon were outside our building. In fact, one of our paralegals captured Pidgedy during her lunch break right inside our hallways.
Pokemon and Potential Hazards
Falling victim to a crime or stumbling upon a crime
Four teens in Missouri were arrested after committing numerous armed robberies by using the Pokemon Go app to lure their victims to secluded areas. Another teenager in Wyoming was on a quest to find a water Pokemon, when instead she found a dead body floating in the lake.
Risking your life is not the key to winning Pokemon Go. One Pokemon gamer was stabbed by a man after the gamer asked if the man wanted to "battle." Obviously intending to battle on the app was not as clear to the attacker. After being stabbed, the gamer continued on his quest to find what he was looking for instead of immediately going to the hospital for medical treatment!
Accidents from distracted driving and walking
Pokemon can pop up anywhere any time. Whether you're walking down the street and Jigglypuff pops up a block away or you're driving and Charmander is at the corner store. Accidents can happen, even to the most attentive Pokemon player. People have gotten into accidents (even crashing into police cars) and have been hit by cars because they were distracted by the game instead of paying attention to their surroundings.
Trespassing has become epidemic since the release of Pokemon Go. Often Pokemon only appear at certain times, so players may hunt at varying hours of the night and early morning. The problem - some are located on private property, at businesses, or in city parks. Players can face criminal charges if they trespass on private property or at public places after allowed hours. Sadly, as we have seen, other players can face worse consequences by wandering out late at night in the wrong areas.
Pokemon Go - Playing it Safe
Be aware of your surroundings
Just because you see someone wandering around in the woods or staring at their phone - don't assume they are playing Pokemon. Use caution when going into secluded areas and approaching strangers. While the game can be a great opportunity to meet other players, be sure they have the same intentions.
Don't drive and catch
Do we really have to say this? Turn the game off and put the phone away. AAA Carolinas says playing Pokemon while driving is just as dangerous as texting and driving.
Distracted walking, too, can have dangerous consequences. Be vigilant and check your surroundings, particularly when crossing streets. Don't risk your life just because you see Dragonite on the other side of the road. No Pokemon character is worth your life - not even Dragonite.
Respect your city's curfew and business hours
If it's 3:00 a.m. and a Pikachu pops up near the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, don't go out to try to catch it. Only visit landmarks, businesses, private property, and historical sites during appropriate hours.
Put down the phone and enjoy the real life around you
While Pokemon Go can take you to attractions you've never been before, it defeats the purpose if you stare at your phone the whole time you're there. A benefit of the game is that it compels you to get off the couch, go outside, and maybe even get a little exercise.
After you are drawn to a new museum, garden, historical site, or neighborhood park, take a moment to explore the area with your eyes instead of your phone. You may gain something more incredible than a new critter or points on a game. Allow the Pokemon app to enhance your actual reality in addition to your virtual reality.
North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate Pokemon Injury Cases FREE
Here's something important to know about your right to compensation if you are injured playing the game. Unless you opt out of the game's terms of service, you may be waiving your right to litigation in the event you are injured - or are blamed for injuring someone else. So be careful and be smart.
If you are injured by someone playing Pokemon Go or believe it is as a result of negligence on the part of Niantic (the company that developed Pokemon Go) contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We offer more than 35 attorneys - many who are experienced in personal injury cases of all kinds.
And, unlike many of the Pokemon, you'll catch us any time day or night.