Pokémon Go is a hit. We’ve had geocaching and we’ve had Ingress, but that all pales in comparison to this social phenomenon. Players are literally everywhere: if you haven’t seen them roaming parks, converging on church parking lots, or doing slow drive-bys of municipal buildings, then you’ve probably seen their many updates on social media. (Or, if you’re like me, you’ve seen plenty of both.)
Although some people have debated the merits of the game, a lot of the public chatter has been over whether the game’s impact on society is good or bad– a sign of just how big this thing has gotten. Everyone has an opinion on the game and whether it is a new portal to American fitness or a sign of the Apocalypse.
I’m not going to try to tell people whether or not they should play the game or not. But I do think that there are some warning signs that gamers should consider in playing. If any of these apply to you, take a hard look in the mirror.
You might want think about putting the stop on Pokémon Go if …
You’re impeding on other peoples’ private property.
Stories have circulated of kids loitering near private homes that were inadvertently marked as gyms or foraging through private property looking for monsters. I’ve seen it: a poor family down the street from me found themselves getting a lot of strange attention because a trio of flags in their front yard were designated a Pokéstop. Kids traipse through their lawn, loiter on the sidewalk, and do slow drive-bys. If you can’t resist making a nuisance of others, you might need a break.
It’s supplanting other outdoor time.
One of the great virtues of Go is that it gets people out and about. I’ve had several people report that the game has shaken up the sedentary lives of them and others around them. Let’s call that what it is: in a country with such a high obesity rate, an uptick moderate exercise is a welcome development. And in some ways it’s not all that different, in principle, than what some fitness apps do through their system of achievements. As a bonus, I’ve noticed that many Go players are hunting with friends, making it a social activity, too.
But if the hunt is taking you away from other outdoor activities you might otherwise do, stop and think about it. Hiking has been shown to have wonderful benefits for mental health, but those benefits are mitigated if you are locked into the screen in front of you. There is something to be said for walking through the forest for the forest’s sake.
It’s distracting you to the point of safety.
Because of Go, we can now add distracted gaming to the list of mishaps that can affect pedestrians and drivers. Your brain can only process so many things at once, which is why texting while driving is so inherently dangerous. People on foot need to be equally careful, and a close eye on finding Pokémon is an eye not on traffic. Since getting hit by a car hurts really bad, just be careful. If nothing else, put the thing away when you cross the street or proceed down a steep ravine.
If you’re out in the middle of nowhere at 2 am.
Seriously, use common sense. There have been reports of players walking into ponds or even off cliffs. A few players have been victimized by armed robbers. And that doesn’t even include the three dead bodies players stumbled on in just a week. (If you don’t believe me, try Googling “Pokemon Go dead body” and see where that takes you.) If the game is consuming your life to the point where you need to be in some dark part of a park in the wee hours of the morning, go home, get some sleep, then wake up and remind yourself how important and special life is. Don’t take it for granted.