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The real world dangers of Pokémon GO

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By Ross Walker

Ever since I was a child, I can remember all types of fads. There were yo-yo's, hoola hoops, marbles, collecting footy cards, et cetera, et cetera. Probably the most bizarre fad is the most recent obsession with Pokémon GO.

Even though I personally do not really care, Pokémon GO is an augmented reality, free-to-play mobile game using smart phone GPS capabilities. The game enables players to search, locate and capture more than 100 species of Pokémon in a variety of real-world locations.

Pokémon GO was launched in July of this year, and for some reason, has taken the world by storm. The game became the top-grossing app in the United States within 13 hours of its release. It averages around 4-5 million downloads a day.

The only advantage I can see to this rather bizarre phenomenon is that unlike typical video games, it does require the player to get off their backside and move.

While some commentators are lauding the benefits of Pokémon GO because it is encouraging inactive people to become active, it has also induced a number of traffic accidents, injuries and in one case even caused a person to fall off a cliff because of the distraction of the game.

A new study using the social media platform Twitter has estimated that Pokémon GO was responsible for around 114,000 incidences over 10 days, such as a distraction from either the driver, passenger or pedestrian. Some of these incidents also included motor vehicles. In 20% of cases, it appeared that the person was driving while playing the game. There were 14 reported motor vehicle accidents, including one incident where the driver crashed into a tree.

I believe we live in a very sad world where people need a mobile computer app to motivate them to exercise. I would have thought prevention of death from a number of common diseases could be enough motivation for anyone, but clearly I am wrong.

We are already seeing significant carnage from the use of mobile phones while driving, despite the fact that it is highly illegal. The other day, I was being driven to the airport during peak hour. I was in the Eastern distributor tunnel and looked over and saw the woman in the car next to me sending a message on her mobile phone while she was driving. I was tempted to take a photo of her number plate and send it to the police.

What people do in their own leisure time is clearly their own business, but when it puts themselves and other people at risk such, as is clearly the case with Pokémon GO, I believe we need to take a long hard look at our behaviour.

Many people would see the game as a harmless bit of fun, but clearly there are some people out there who do not know the difference between fun and danger.

Published: Thursday, September 29, 2016


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