Pokémon Go, a new mobile game which tasks players with leaving their homes to hunt Pokémon in the real world via an augmented-reality interface, has some players concerned about real-world safety issues.
So it’s not surprising that bogus reports of a massive Pokémon Go-related traffic accident and spike in pedestrian injuries went viral along with the hashtag #DontPokemonGoAndDrive this weekend.
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 Wednesday release in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Players already have 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.
For many adults in their 20s and 30s, they grew up watching Pokemon after school and playing it on their Gameboy, but now, you can play it on your phone.
You could play it on your phone before using simulators, but Niantic released a first of it’s kind Pokemon app in the last week, Pokemon Go, and it’s already rocketed to the top of the charts for iPhone and Android apps.
“I feel like I can’t go an hour without seeing something about it, it’s kind of taking over the world right now I feel,” said Skyler Wendell, who grew up playing and watching Pokemon. “I can’t remember a time of my life where I didn’t have a Pokemon game that I was just playing in the background of my life.”
The new app mixes the virtual reality of the Pokemon world with the real world. The app uses your GPS on your phone to track you as you explore different areas to catch different Pokemon.
“It’s pretty cool because you get to walk around and enjoy Nebraska and what it’s all about and catch Pokemon like your a real Pokemon trainer,” said Chris Vong, who was out at Holmes Lake on Saturday afternoon playing the game.
The game has been wildly popular across the globe after its release on July 7th, but already there have been concerns about users safety. For many users when they are out playing the game, they aren’t paying as much attention to their surroundings, which has led to quite a few scraps, falls, and sprained ankles.
There’s also a concern about people driving and using the app.
Appearing on sites called CartelPress and Stubhill News, the stories make a variety of extremely dubious claims about the new app and traffic safety. The CartelPress version claims a player caused “one of the worst traffic accidents” after stepping in front of the vehicle of another man who was also playing while driving. It quotes a make-believe officer as saying Pokémon Go could “double or triple the amount of incidents that happen due to driving while using a mobile device.”
The Stubhill News version is more obviously satirical, quoting a researcher on traffic safety as saying “We may lose a few along the way, but the losses will be dwarfed by increases in quality of life and life expectancy … Sick! Caught a Charmander!”
As #DontPokemonGoAndDrive trended on Twitter this weekend, it remained unclear whether the satirical articles were partially responsible for the hashtag or merely attempting to cash in on it, though credulous social media users spread screenshots of the two posts online.
No serious reports of major Pokémon Go-related traffic incidents seem to have as of yet hit the news, but the CDC estimates every day distracted drivers are involved in 8 deaths and 1,161 injuries, resulting in hundreds of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries annually. So yes, Pokéballs and driving are a bad combination.
While the app is much safer on foot, users are reminded to maintain visual awareness of their surroundings at all times. Ankle injuries, mishaps with revolving doors and walking into trees have been among the painful results.
Case in point: apparently on Friday, Pokémon Go led a 19-year-old Wyoming girl searching for water Pokémon to a dead body floating in the river.