July 15, 2016
Until a couple of days ago, I’d never heard of Pokemon Go. Now I can’t get away from the smartphone game, released July 6, but I haven’t played it, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is. I feel old admitting it, but I had to look it up online for an explanation. Though if you have kids, you probably know more than I do.
“In simple terms, Pokémon Go is 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. 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.’
The idea is to “catch” all the virtual critters, and then train them to fight…or something.
All I really know is that everywhere I go, I see people standing around, pointing their phones at thin air. I see it in the supermarket, on the busy street in front of my house, at the mall; I even saw it in an Orange Julius line the other night. (Yes, I consumed sugar.)
Good: It Makes Kids (and Everyone Else) go Outside and Move
The good thing about Pokemon Go is that it requires people to get off their butts and go outside. I mean, kids are developing myopia (near-sightedness) from not getting enough sunlight. I guess we should be glad the creators and developers of Pokemon Go are giving kids a reason to turn off their TVs and wander out of the house, even if it’s just to spend more time on their smartphones.
And it’s not just kids who are into Pokemon Go. Plenty of adults are playing, too. If you don’t believe me, you must not have a Facebook account. I see as many grown-ups posting their Pokemon “catches” on Facebook as youngsters.
Don’t Walk Aimlessly in the Street Catching Pokemon
Unfortunately, not everybody can walk and chew gum at the same time, and even fewer can use a cell phone and not…well, accidentally kiss a car bumper. You have the driving-and-texting problem, of course, but people who are too distracted by their cell phones to safely walk across the street have made headlines in recent years, too.
Throw in a little Pokemon Go, and it’s like pouring gasoline on a forest fire.
On July 12, an Auburn, New York, man crashed his car into a tree while playing the augmented reality game, causing him minor injuries. Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler said of the incident:
“Luckily the driver was not seriously injured but this is an example of how easily accidents can occur when someone is engaged in the game and not paying attention.” 
Two men tumbled off a cliff on July 13 in San Diego’s North County while playing Pokemon Go, too. The Encitas Fire Department arrived on the scene to find a man about 80 to 90 feet down the cliff, on a beach. The second man was found unconscious about 50 feet down the cliff.
Both men were transported to Scripps La Jolla Hospital. Their conditions are unknown.
The men decided to climb a fence and go Pokemon hunting despite a sign posted on the fence warning that the bluffs were unstable.
Pokemon Go has also lead to some creepy encounters and stomach-churning discoveries:
- Police in Oregon reportedly received a call that a man had been stabbed while walking and playing the game on his phone.
- In Wyoming, a teen stumbled across a dead man’s body floating in a river while she was searching for water Pokemon.
- Players in Pennsylvania got locked inside a cemetery after closing while hunting for the creatures. 
- In Missouri, 3 teens were arrested for armed robbery. The police believe the trio lured victims to their location using Pokemon Go. 
The thing that truly disturbs me is that people are so focused on a smartphone game that they’re willing to disrespect some very sacred sites, including Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and Ground Zero in New York City. People have even been caught playing Pokemon Go at the Auschwitz Museum and concentration camp in Poland.   
We may see lawsuits flying over Pokemon-related incidents. But it’s not the game that’s dangerous; it’s the lack of common sense among some of the game’s players.