DANGEROUS DISTRACTION? Beware: Pokémon Go, a new smartphone
game based on cute Nintendo characters like Squirtle and
Pikachu, can be harmful to your health. The "augmented-reality"
game, which layers gameplay onto the physical world, became the
top grossing app in the iPhone app store just days after its
release in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. (AR Photo/Dinah
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #14 (July 18, 2016),
Players in hunt for Pokémon Go monsters feel
By Ryan Nakashima
AP Business Writer
LOS ANGELES — Beware: Pokémon Go, a new smartphone game based
on cute Nintendo characters like Squirtle and Pikachu, can be
harmful to your health.
The "augmented-reality" game, which layers gameplay onto the
physical world, became the top grossing app in the iPhone app
store just days after its release in the U.S., Australia, and
New Zealand. And players have already reported wiping out in a
variety of ways as they wander the real world — eyes glued to
their smartphone screens — in search of digital monsters.
Mike Schultz, a 21-year-old communications graduate on Long
Island, New York, took a spill on his skateboard as he stared at
his phone while cruising for critters. He cut his hand on the
sidewalk after hitting a big crack, and blames himself for going
"I just wanted to be able to stop quickly if there were any
Pokémons nearby to catch," he says. "I don’t think the company
is really at fault."
Real world, virtual creatures
The game was created by Niantic Inc., a San Francisco spinoff
of Google parent Alphabet Inc. that previously became known for
a similar augmented-reality game called Ingress.
To play, you fire up the game and then start trekking to
prominent local landmarks — represented in the game as "Pokéstops"
— where you can gather supplies such as pokéballs. Those are
what you fling at online "pocket monsters," or Pokémon, to
capture them for training. At other locations called "gyms" —
which may or may not be actual gyms in the real world — Pokémon
battle one another for supremacy.
Naturally, the game has also induced people to post pictures
of themselves on social media chasing creatures in all sorts of
Zubats and Paras have appeared on car dashboards. Caterpies
have been spotted at intersections. Police in Darwin, Australia,
have even asked players not to waltz into their station, which
of course is a Pokéstop in the game.
"You don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the
pokéballs," the Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency
Services says on its Facebook page.
Ankle injuries, mishaps with revolving doors, and walking
into trees have been among the painful results.
Kyrie Tompkins, a 22-year-old freelance web designer, fell on
the sidewalk and twisted her ankle while wandering in downtown
"It vibrated to let me know there was something nearby and I
looked up and just fell in a hole," she says. Her parents had to
drive her and her fiancé home.
As an upside, players get more exercise than usual and can
learn more about the historical landmarks incorporated into the
game as Pokéstops. Digital signposts describe their significance
in the real world.
A new social medium
And players are actually meeting face to face, despite the
fact they arrived at nearby high schools, water towers, and
museums by staring at their screens.
Lindsay Plunkett, a 23-year-old waitress in Asheville, North
Carolina, made a point of parking six blocks away from the
restaurant where she works, instead of the usual three. "Just so
I could get some more Pokéstops on the way," she says.
She’s still nursing a bruised shin from the previous night,
when she and her boyfriend spent hours wandering downtown in the
rain. She tripped over a cinder block that had been used as a
doorstop at a local women’s museum.
But she’s got something to look forward to. Soon, she’ll be
travelling cross country to California with a friend. That means
more chances to encounter Pokéstops and Pokémons "the whole
way," she says.
At least the game has one failsafe — you can’t hatch digital
eggs while driving. That requires slower in-person movement in
the real world. "It doesn’t count as walking if you’re going
more than 20 miles per hour, so that’s good, I guess," Plunkett