Pokemon Go has risen to nationwide popularity in record time, quickly outpacing other mobile games, such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds. However, there are potential dangers; players have gotten lost, found dead bodies and even been hit by cars while using the app.
The game’s premise is to capture virtual creatures called Pokemon in order to train them and battle other Pokemon. The app is largely based on GPS, and players must move in the real world to move in the game. While wandering in search of Pokemon, people have sometimes neglected to focus on their surroundings, leading to dangerous situations. Last Tuesday, a man was robbed at gunpoint while playing the game and waiting at a bus stop near East Oltorf street.
“I would hope that players start to think more about their actions once they hear stories about the possible negative consequences,” said Paul Toprac, associate director of the game and mobile media applications program at UT.
Similar incidents across the country have also raised safety concerns. Two young California men fell from the edge of an ocean bluff while playing. Though both men sustained moderate injuries, they are expected to recover fully.
The app also features “Pokestops,” where players can go to collect items such as additional “pokeballs” used to catch Pokemon or healing “potions”, and gyms, where players can go to pit their Pokemon against those of other players.
Some have raised concerns about the potential for robbing distracted players using the app. Players can use “Lure Modules” within the game to encourage Pokemon to gather in one particular area. As the Pokemon gather, so do the players. Often, a number of these players are young and unsupervised. Four teenage thieves in Missouri robbed more than 11 people at gunpoint using this feature.
Incoming communication freshman Alexis Fischer said it is important to take precautions when playing the game.
“Travel in groups and be aware of your surroundings,” Fischer said. “We never go out alone, and [we] stay in well-lit areas.”
The University of Texas Police Department advises users to do just that, although there have been no issues so far with Pokemon GO users around campus, said Cindy Posey, communications director for UTPD.
Radio-television-film freshman Katy Ricke, who has spent several late nights hunting for Pokemon around campus with friends, said they have managed to stay safe by following the advice of the app’s loading screen: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.”
“Sometimes it’s not worth it. If you see an unsafe area, just know that you will find Pokemon everywhere,” Ricke said. “I don’t want to die for an Eevee.”