It’s been less than a week since the augmented reality game Pokémon Go rose to the top of the charts for free app downloads. Gamers young and old have embraced the game with great fervor, but several incidents have caused some to question the app’s safety.
On July 8, just two days after the game’s official launch, a Wyoming teenager came across a grotesque discovery while tracking Pokémon near a riverbank. After hopping a fence in order to access the location of the Pokémon indicated on her map, 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins found a dead body floating in the water. At first she didn’t realize what she had been looking at, but after a second glance she was horrified. She dialed 911 immediately and officers were quick to arrive on the scene. Though the case is still under investigation, first responders believe that the man’s death had been the result of an accident.
Two days later, armed teenagers staked out a secluded Pokéstop beacon location in order to rob unsuspecting victims. In a parking lot of a CVS pharmacy in O’Fallon, Missouri, officers came across four teens sitting in a black BMW. As officers approached the suspects one attempted to throw a gun out of the car. The suspects were charged with felony first-degree robbery and are currently being held on a $100,000 bond.
Other in-app issues have resulted in unexpected consequences, such as a glitch that caused one man’s residence to become a gym in the game. Boon Sheridan Tweets:
“Living in an old church means many things. Today it means my house is a Pokémon Go gym. This should be fascinating.”
While there hasn’t been any issues so far, Sheridan has expressed a concern about people loitering in front of his home and blocking his driveway. On release day Sheridan stopped counting after 30 people had either pulled up in cars or lingered around his house for upwards of 20 minutes. He fears that police may suspect him of conducting illegal transactions from his home and worries that the extra traffic may impact the property value of the area. Since the game may encourage trespassing, Sheridan is also concerned that the app could bring about deadly consequences to gamers, since castle laws allow for people to use deadly force in response to intruders.
Sheridan wasn’t the only one with unwelcome guests. An Australian police station was forced to issue a statement, ordering game players not to enter the police station to collect game items.
The Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services Facebook page released the following statement in response to their onslaught of visitors:
“For those budding Pokemon Trainers out there using Pokemon Go — whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs.
It’s also a good idea to look up, away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street. That Sandshrew isn’t going anywhere fast.
Stay safe and catch ’em all!”
The Washington State Department of Transportation also issued a safety warning, firmly Tweeting, “No Pokemoning from behind the wheel.” Though the game provides an appropriate disclaimer upon loading the app for users to be aware of their surroundings, injuries as a result of using the app have already been reported by reddit users and users have since created a convenient safety guide for the millions of aspiring Pokémon trainers worldwide.
With the growing popularity of the app, it seems doubtful that these will be the only incidents associated with the game. As much as we all want to capture Mewtwo, it’s important to use common sense when interacting with the app. Pay careful attention to your surroundings, obey existing laws and if an area seems dangerous, let it go.