The Pokémon Go Craze

You purchased tickets to a 90-minute harbor cruise, and are ready to board the boat with your family, when a teenage boy walks directly towards you; phone in hand, his steps zigzagging. You try to anticipate where his stride will take him, but not even he knows where he is headed next. He glides past; nearly knocking into you, barely noticing his surroundings, as he continues to search for Pikachu and Charizard on his iPhone. He is immersed in the new craze Pokémon Go, a "free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices." Pokémon Go is currently the #1 App in the iTunes App Store, and the entire concept of the game is to "Catch Pokémon in the Real World with Pokémon Go." However, for those who aren't interested in chasing virtual anime around bustling cities or towns, the platform is further contributing to a culture where people are rarely fully focused and present. 

On July 20, 2016, USA Today reported that a driver slammed into a Baltimore police car while playing Pokémon Go, and the accident was captured on the officer's body camera. According to USA Today, after the crash, the driver exited his vehicle and held up his phone, saying "that’s what I get for playing this dumb game." On July 12, 2016, The Washington Post reported a similar story about a man in Auburn, N.Y. that crashed into a tree while playing the game behind the wheel. The app's Terms of Service do include a clause about "Safe Play," but it is clear that users are playing the game with disregard for their surroundings. The gaming industry should be applauded for their innovation and for creating a product that encourages users to go and explore their cities. However, on some level, it is disheartening that on such a beautiful day, when that teenager could've spotted Humpback and Fin Whales from a boat tour in the Atlantic, he was too busy searching for virtual creatures he will never be able to see outside of his smartphone.

Click here to view LifeHacker’s article, How to Stay Safe While Playing Pokémon Go: for tips on how to be safe and considerate while playing Pokémon Go.

Marisa Stauffer, GTP Contributing Blogger
Posted: 7/22/2016 9:35:09 AM