We mentioned the new app sensation Pokémon GO in a recent post about apps that get your off the couch. And indeed, tens of millions of people have downloaded the game and are getting out and about catching these virtual monsters. However, some people are getting so involved in the game that they may not be paying enough attention to their real-world surroundings. This inattention can lead to all kinds of safety hazards. Check out our Pokémon GO safety guide to stay safe while enjoying the game.
If this is the first you’re hearing of Pokémon GO, some brief context may be helpful. The original Pokémon games were created in Japan in the 1990s and distributed by Nintendo for their Game Boy devices. The franchise also spawned a popular trading card game and an anime TV series. The basic premise is that “trainers” travel the world capturing the creatures known as Pokémon and training them to compete with other Pokémon in gyms. Pokémon also “evolve” from their basic forms into more powerful incarnations once they gain enough strength.
The Surprise Sensation
All of these elements are incorporated into the new Pokémon GO app from mobile developers Niantic. Pokémon GO is an “augmented reality” or AR game. These games overlay game elements onto your real-world surroundings. In the case of Pokémon GO, GPS map data is used to determine your location. Gyms and “Pokéstops” where you can obtain items for use in the game are located at various public places, such as monuments, parks, churches, post offices, and more. Players must physically go to these locations in order to play the game.
They also have to walk around, generally near these locations, to “catch” Pokémon. The creatures appear on the player’s phone screen when they approach locations where the game has determined Pokémon are located. Another way to obtain Pokémon is to hatch eggs that are obtained from Pokéstops. Players are required to walk in order to hatch the eggs, anywhere from two to ten kilometers. (Yes, the game uses the metric system.)
Pokémon GO Safely
With all of this game play tied to real-world locations, it’s easy to see why players have been getting out to play at local parks or take long walks to hatch their eggs. And it’s wonderful that the game is helping many people to be more active. However, the augmented reality aspect of the game can also be hazardous. If players become too involved with the world of the game, they may miss very real obstacles or hazards. Some players have also been going out to play late at night or in unsafe locations. Just a bit of situational awareness can help players avoid these pitfalls. Here’s how to stay safe while playing Pokémon GO.
- The game offers this warning every time you open the app: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” Follow this advice.
- Don’t walk and play. You have to walk around to encounter the various game elements, but you don’t have to walk while doing any of the main game activities. If you are trying to catch a Pokémon, battle at a gym, or get items from a Pokéstop, stop walking. Find a safe area out of the path of traffic and stop there while you are playing. When it’s time to move on to the next location, look where you are going and find another safe place to stop.
- Play in pedestrian areas when possible. Although mishaps can still happen on foot, they are likely to be much less serious than if a vehicle is involved. Many Pokémon hot spots are located at parks or other pedestrian areas. Make these your go-to places to play the game.
- Don’t Pokémon and drive. This should go without saying, but NEVER try to play the game while you are driving. Distracted driving is one of the main causes of crashes.
- Play with a buddy. A person out alone, distracted by their phone is a prime target for criminals or others with bad intentions. It’s much safer to take a friend when you play.
- Don’t let children play unattended. Children are very likely to forget safety warnings and not be aware of their surroundings when they get involved in the game. Make sure a responsible adult is present when kids go hunting for Pokémon.
- Don’t go anywhere to play Pokémon GO that you otherwise wouldn’t visit. Exercise your common sense. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable going somewhere or being out at a certain time normally, don’t go there to play a game.
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