If you haven’t heard of it yet, chances are you are living in a cave. The world, at the moment, seems to be going mad over Pokémon Go, the latest augmented reality mobile game from game maker Niantic. The phenomenon has seized the entire US smartphone bandwidth and added $9 billion to owner Nintendo’s valuation. In fact, global demand for the hit mobile app has soared during the launch weekend a month ago, paralysing servers in the US and Europe.
And after more than a month of waiting, the highly addictive free-to-download game has finally hit Singapore today! Be prepared to see many grown man or woman, teen or child staring at their phone (as if we don’t have enough people doing that) and playing Pokémon Go while walking along the streets. Now, that’s when accidents can happen.
Watch where you are going
You see, the game calls for gamers to hunt in the real great outdoors for virtual Pokémon (short for pocket monsters), which they can see using their smartphone camera. Geotagged locations (usually buildings, landmarks and local points of interest) offer in-game rewards to players who visit. And for those quick and crafty enough during the hunt, a built-in pedometer tracks distance travelled to incubate “eggs” that hatch new Pokémon.
In some cases, gamers have walked, biked, and even skated into signposts, cars and other pedestrians – all for the pursuit of Pokémon creatures.
While Pokémon Go has gotten couch potatoes up and out into the real world, the app has also had intended consequences such as injuries, broken phones and property damage. Unexpected hazards reported include a boy spraining his ankle in a New York parking lot trying to catch a brown dinosaur-like beast, a girl walking into a fire hydrant and street post in Los Angeles, as well as a 23-year-old whose phone was sent flying when he was biking through a nature trail (and you guessed it) hunting for Pokémon in Austin, Texas.
Let's see how we can best prepare for Pokémon Go’s real world dangers.
Read the fine print
Every time the app is opened, a warning from developer Niantic pops up, telling players to be aware of their surroundings. Players must also agree to fine print saying they cannot enter private property without permission. There’s also a disclaimer that says Niantic is not liable for any property damage, injuries or deaths that result while playing.
Bottom line: Be aware of your surroundings, and don’t go chasing Pokémon in someone else’s backyard.
Get some peace of mind
It appears some of the main problems are injuries from falls, sprains and strains from players not looking where they were going, walking into objects, tripping or the like. Other gamers complain of sunburns from being outside all day. And in a more serious scenario, just last week two men in San Diego fell off a cliff after they climbed over a fence in an attempt to catch the animated characters.
Granted, there probably ain’t many cliffs you can find in Singapore, but there lies the danger/possibility of falling into a big longkang if you are not careful while pocket-monster hunting.
"The recent spade of accidents that Pokémon Go players were involved in should be a reminder that you should focus on the roads and nothing else,” advised Ashleigh Quek, Senior Financial Consultant, Prudential Assurance Co.
If you know yourself to be a total klutz and yet still insist on playing Pokémon Go, by all means do so, but get yourself some personal accident insurance for peace of mind. If you are not sure if your insurer is going to cover you while you are out hunting virtual monsters, you should be relieved to know that you most probably would be.
“Whether you can make a claim through your personal accident policies depends on whether the accident is self-inflicted or sustained naturally. Considering that the game falls under a leisure activity and the accident is not entirely intentional, it can be possible to make a claim," added Quek.
Keep an eye on your kids where they’re hanging out
The issue of kids being told to go to specific locations in their area to find characters to catch, means adults could figure out where those places are too. Like the incident reported in Missouri, criminals have taken advantage of the game’s potential.
Make sure you and your kids are adequately protected against risk. It’s worth talking to your children about the dangers of getting lured into unknown locations.
Hit pause before jumping on the Poke-wagon
The app collects a vast amount of information from users. To play it, you have to give up your most private information. The application asks for access to the user’s camera, contacts, GPS location, and SD card contents. The sign-up process also asks for a date of birth. It’s only a matter of time, experts say, before that data is in hackers’ hands.
Stay away from traffic
Keep away from moving cars and pedestrians. Don’t play while riding on bikes or skateboarding, either. Don’t go out walking around alone at night if you wouldn’t normally do so.
Look, we get it. You’ve gotta catch ‘em all. Just don’t do it while driving. If you must catch Pokémon in a car, hire a chauffeur or grab a cab, and leave the driving up to someone who’s giving driving their full attention. You would not want to be getting into car accidents because of some mobile game.
By all means, go out into the great outdoors to catch the Pokémon monsters and have fun. But, do take care because it’s not a great way to (Pokémon) go because of Pokémon Go.