Poké-Go or Poké-No? – Are You Using Common Sense to ‘Catch ‘Em All’?

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What is Pokemon Go?Picture this:  you are visiting an outdoor ice cream shop and see a man running through the parking lot. You think “Good for him! It’s great to stay in shape…” only to realize he is actually running around “catching” Pokémon….

The phenomenon of Pokémon Go has taken the country and internet by storm. Don’t expect to check your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed without stumbling across two people discussing how or where they attempted to catch Pikachu or Charizard. Screenshots of virtual creatures on the streets, in restaurants and hanging around people’s homes are appearing everywhere.

Within three days of its release, the Pokémon Go app was installed on 5.16% of Android devices, surpassing Tinder (2%) rather quickly. With 7.5 million U.S. downloads and $1.6 million in daily revenue – in a week – one can only wonder what its impact will be when released globally by game developer, Niantic. Currently, the game can be accessed in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

But, what is Pokémon Go? What has people of all ages running around parking lots holding their phones mid-air? If you – for some reason – have not heard of Pokémon Go, I’ll give you a quick run-down of the app.

Pokémon GO – An Augmented Reality

German Lopez of Vox explained that Pokémon Gois a game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon “appear” around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them.” Lopez continued, “As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game. (This mix of a game and the real world interacting is known as “augmented reality.”)

Related: Pokémon Go, Explained

In other words, it’s a dream come true for Pokémon fans of the 90s. The game brings to life the idea of What if you could catch Pokémon in the real world, not just the digital world?

Many of the users of the 90s are now adults, but the game targets people of all ages. In my home city of Charleston, SC, hundreds of gamers of all ages flocked to the city’s center park, Marion Square, to catch, train and battle their Pokémon.What is Pokemon Go? Marion Square, Charleston SC

Many public, prominent locations are dubbed as Pokémon Gyms – arenas where you battle other trainers’ Pokémon and earn points. In Charleston, for instance, many churches and historical sites downtown are popular places to catch, train and battle Pokémon.

In a short amount of time, Pokémon Go has encouraged users to get off the couch, go outside and be active. You can’t expect to win a battle and advance within the game while sitting at home.

Pokémon Go may encourage users to venture outside, but what users forget – or, because they are so engrossed in the game are oblivious to – is situational awareness.

Situational awareness is the ability to identify, process and comprehend the critical elements of information based upon observations of your surroundings. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.

Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

In the fine print of Pokémon Go’s terms of service – you know, the terms that everyone diligently reads – it is noted:

“During game play, please be aware of your surroundings and play safely. You agree that your use of the App and play of the game is at your own risk, and it is your responsibility to maintain such health, liability, hazard, personal injury, medical, life, and other insurance policies as you deem reasonably necessary for any injuries that you may incur while using the Services. You also agree not to use the App to violate any applicable law, rule, or regulation (including but not limited to the laws of trespass)…”

Cases of distracted drivers have surfaced since the game’s release, including one of a man who wrapped his car around a tree in  upstate New York. The driver admitted he was playing the game while driving. Local law enforcement encouraged drivers to use common sense when playing the game and offered advice to Pokémon hunters:

  • Don’t play the game while driving a car or bicycle.
  • Don’t trespass on private property just to “catch” a Pokémon.
  • Avoid staring down at your phone and be aware of hazards like roadways, drop-offs and waterways.
  • Be cautious of who you share your location with.
  • Don’t travel alone.

Driving and playing Pokémon is not only dangerous to drivers, but it is also hazardous for pedestrians. The risks of texting and driving are apparent; playing Pokémon Go is no different.

Don’t trespass on private property just to “catch” a Pokémon.What is Pokemon Go? 911 memorial

You want to “Catch ‘Em All,” don’t disregard logic when hunting down a rare Pokémon, especially when the creature is someplace like the Holocaust Museum. We are not saying avoid certain places if you’re playing Pokémon Go, but rather take advantage of the areas the app takes you, and be respectful. If the game takes you to a museum, go in and learn something along the way. If it takes you to a historical monument, read the plaques and learn a bit of history. Catch a Pokémon, add steps to your Fitbit and further deepen your history knowledge – it’s a win-win.

Here are a few locations where caution and common sense are called for when catching digital creatures:

Avoid staring down at your phone and be aware of hazards like roadways, drop-offs and waterways.

A week after the game’s release, firefighters in San Diego found themselves rescuing two men who fell several stories off the side of a cliff. The men were playing Pokémon Go at the time of the accident.

More than 2,000 miles across the country, a Pennsylvania mother blamed the game when her daughter was struck by a car. “The Pokémon game took her across a major highway at 5 o’clock in the evening, which is rush hour,” her mother, Tracy Nolan, said in an interview with local Channel 11 News. “Parents, don’t let your kids play this game because you don’t want to go through what I went through last night. I really thought I was losing my daughter.”

The issue is not the game, the issue is distraction. Pay attention to your surroundings. While you’re looking at a Pokémon on the street, the oncoming car doesn’t see it – and may not have time to react to avoid you. Have common sense and be aware of traffic.

Be cautious of who you share your location with and don’t travel alone.

Multiple Pokémon Go players were reportedly robbed at Gunpoint in Missouri. Others have ventured into dangerous areas at night to catch Pokémon. Two bits of advice: 1) The Pokémon may be at that location during the day and 2) Pokéballs don’t stop bullets.

Pokémon Company, Niantic, urge players to “be aware of their surroundings and play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places,” according to CBS News. You wouldn’t allow your child to go trick-or-treating by themselves, don’t allow them to hunt Pokémon alone.

Distraction in the Workplace

Pokémon are everywhere – including the workplace. Aerospace giant, Boeing, recently banned access to the game.

Just like you shouldn’t Pokémon Go and drive, you shouldn’t play the game while at work either. That goes double if you work for Boeing, as the massive What is Pokemon Go? Pokemon at workcompany just issued a company-wide policy that’s banning Pokémon Go play at work.” Chris Smith of BGR continued, “The problem isn’t only that employees installing the game on their mobile devices are likely to ignore work chores and instead hunt for Pikachu and friends on the company dime. It’s also that people might walk into machinery and hurt themselves.

In Texas alone, more than 46,000 residents drive a vehicle as their occupation. A driver playing Pokémon Go while pulling an 80,000 pound 18-wheeler poses significant risks to everyone on the road. Pokémon appearing in a busy hospital could create more dismay than already present.

A viral photo shows the frustration of one boss: “We are paying you to work, not chase fictional video game characters with your cell all day. Save it for your break time or lunch. Otherwise you’ll have plenty of time unemployed to ‘Catch them all.’”

Workplace distractions are not novel risks. March Madness distractions equate to a loss of nearly $1.3 billion per hour due to decreased productivity; while Cyber Monday racks up $450 million on average.

Pokémon Go is a new application; will the popularity die down after a few weeks, or will HR Directors be reprimanding distracted Pokémon Hunters – or employees – for an extended time?

Risks are not limited to the physical world, the security of Pokémon Go has been in question.

Unforeseen Risks to Users

When initially released, the iOS version of the app “demanded full access to all of your Google account information. That means it could have potentially been able to “see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account,” according to Google, short of changing your password or tapping into Google Wallet,” noted Brian Barrett of Wired. 

Firestorm Principal Guy Higgins commented on the Privacy Issues some have raised concerning the app:

“Every single app available anywhere is collecting more information than the app needs.  Many, many apps are free because the developers are selling the data that they collect from the users.  They claim that they “anonymize” the data by stripping away all the identifying information and reporting in the aggregate only, but MIT (just last year) showed that they can de-anonymize data with as few as three or four “transactions.”  Admittedly, the transactions that MIT used were commercial transactions like purchases, but nonetheless, there are a couple of issues associated with the whole collection area:

  • Most of the data/information is collected without the user’s actively granting permission — legally, the users do grant permission when they click “accept” on the Terms of Service agreement (you know that 4,276 page small print document that you should read overtime you download an app), but practically speaking, almost no user understands the ToS, understands the implications of the ToS or understands the context within which the data is collected and shared.
  • App developers are making money by selling information that belongs to people who are not paid for that information (other than by addicting them games).”

According to Niantic, the app’s first update “fixed Google account scope,” in addition to log-in issues and crashes.

Embracing the PokéGoWhat is Pokemon Go?

Some businesses are embracing Pokémon Go. Consignment store iconoCLAD is using the app’s hype as a marketing strategy. A Pokéstop, located inside the store, provided marketers with a way to advertise to passerby’s and social media followers. The sign reads: “Pokéstop inside! Come get your Pokéballs and previously rocked threads! Gotta Catch Em’ All in Style!”

The Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art jumped on the bandwagon as a way to attract potential customers into their museum.

“As general admission to Crystal Bridges is free, it will cost you nothing to visit the Museum and rack up your Pokémon captures, and you can enjoy some terrific American art as you go,” the museum says. “We only ask that you be careful and be aware of your surroundings as you do battle so you don’t inadvertently back into an artwork or trip up a fellow museum-goer.”

Poke-go, Poke-no or Poke-sense?

The term ‘Pokémon’ is short for the original Japanese title of Pocket Monsters. So when you’re at work or driving do just that – keep them in your pocket. Wait until after work hours to catch Pokémon.

But if you are going to play the game, use common sense.

Don’t become so engulfed in the game you do not recognize a car speeding by. Don’t walk off the ledge of a cliff to catch JigglyPuff. And please, don’t Pokémon and drive.

For all the Pokémon Go players, good luck, visit new places and I hope you catch them all.

p.s. – You may want to check the data usage on your phone – Pokémon Go can use a large amount of data.



Pokemon Go: Sex offender caught playing game with child – BBC News

Pokémon Go player crashes his car into a tree – USA TODAY

How Pokemon Go is changing the world – CNN

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