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Caroline Slusarczyk

The new Pokemon GO app was recently released, and it was an immediate sensation among thousands of players.  The app’s success skyrocketed Nintendo’s market value to $7.5 billion.

For those who don’t know, Pokemon GO is an “augmented reality” game in which the player has to “catch” various Pokemon in the real world.  While there have been plenty of other augmented reality game apps, Pokemon GO is one of a kind due to the Pokemon video game series' dedicated fandom.  Pokemon GO allows players to literally become an integrated part of their favorite game.

So how does it actually work?  The app uses your phone’s GPS to show you the locations of the Pokemon in your area.  Destinations could be on the street, in the park, or even in local businesses.  You literally walk from location to location to catch Pokemon.  When you get to a pinpointed location, you aim the in-app camera at the Pokemon, and “catch” it.  It's essentially a scavenger hunt in which you explore a city to find as many wild Pokemon as you can.

The Pokemon GO app may be an enjoyable, outdoorsy change of pace for video game players, but it has also proved hazardous and potentially life-threatening.

Four people were arrested in Missouri for multiple armed robberies in which it appeared they used the Pokemon GO app to lure players with the intention to rob the distracted individuals.  The suspects appeared to add "beacons" to a "PokeStop" — a blue cube that allows players to strengthen their Pokemon.  Police said that this allowed the suspects to attract and pinpoint players who were "standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever location they were in."

In Wyoming, 19 year old Shayla Wiggins, followed the app to capture a “water-type” Pokemon, when she discovered a man’s corpse floating in a river.

Players have become injured because Pokemon GO leaves its participants distracted.  Mike Schultz, a 21-year-old communications graduate in Long Island, New York, fell over and cut his hand on the pavement while on his skateboard.  He said, “I just wanted to be able to stop quickly if there were any Pokemons nearby to catch.”

Kyrie Tompkins, a 22-year-old from Waterville, Maine, fell on the pavement and twisted her ankle.  She said, "[The app] vibrated to let me know there was something nearby and I looked up and just fell in a hole."

One player in Colorado Springs, CO., Mike Zichler, told that he had run into a couple of parents while they searched for their son who played the game.  Zichler said, “It would be very easy for me to just sit here and lure a bunch of players here and then rob them.”

Another player, Portia Scovern, told that players should, “Use common sense.  Use safety first.”

The Pokemon GO app was prepared for potential safety issues.  The app’s website warned players, "For safety's sake, never play Pokemon GO when you're on your bike, driving a car, riding a hoverboard, or anything else where you should be paying attention, and of course never wander away from your parents or your group to catch a Pokémon." 



Have you downloaded and played Pokemon GO?