Pokémon Go is the new obsession of our time; as an augmented reality mobile game bringing back memories of Pokémon shows and Nintendo games from our childhood, Pokémon Go has attracted a tremendous amount of people in countries all over the world. You can catch a glimpse of this unprecedented rage just by looking outside your window—avid trainers stopping traffic to catch a rare pokémon in the middle of the street, crowds amassing in Poké Stops or Poké Gyms, and even a wanted criminal unwittingly walking into a police station designated as a Poké Gym. However, on the other side of this rage lies a darker, less innocuous side of Pokémon Go: the car accidents, fatal injuries, and even deaths, all resulting from excessive obsession over this game.
There are undoubtedly some positive aspects of Pokémon Go. It has created a new category of gaming: one that requires physical activity and movement. Obesity has been a huge problem in the United States for several years, and one of the key factors that created this inescapable issue in the first place was addiction to gaming. According to Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, by spending a tremendous amount of hours playing games that did not require much movement, video game addicts became prone to obesity quite easily.
However, since Pokemon Go requires players to get moving, it could diminish the obesity problem. With a touch of exaggeration, Dave Schilling from the Guardian claims “the game might even solve America’s obesity problem forever.” Moreover, it is an entertaining game that has this extremely appealing aspect: it’s free! This aspect allows people of all ages and of all social classes to play—another reason why the game was able to attain such immense popularity.
Ironically, precisely because Pokémon Go is a game that requires so much movement, it can cause unprecedented accidents. For instance, recently a teenage girl jumped into a dangerous highway because the map in the game indicated that there was an uncommon Pokémon in that location. As she jumped into the road in an attempt to catch the Pokémon, a speeding car ran by and hit her. Fortunately, she was not killed nor severely injured, but she did learn her lesson: Pokémon Go is absolutely not the safest game. Another example is when two men fell off a 90-foot cliff while hunting for Pokémon in Encinitas. One man fell all the way down to the beach (80-90 feet), and the other fell 50 feet down the cliff—both men were severely injured, but fortunately, firefighters rescued them and immediately took them to the hospital.
These are not the first fatal incidents that have occurred due to Pokémon Go; a huge throng of people ran to catch a rare Pokémon in the middle of the street and stopped traffic, a man playing Pokémon Go while driving crashed into a police car, two boys broke into a neighbor’s home to catch a Pokémon and were shot. These incidents prove the dangers that Pokémon Go poses to people who cannot restrict themselves from playing the game constantly.
Moreover, Pokémon Go is highly addictive. This problem is made worse because the Pokémon franchise has been publicized for almost two decades now, allowing a very wide age group of people to be familiar with the media series. This not only means that the young generations will be at risk to being addicted to this game, but also that the older generations will be vulnerable. Addiction is an obvious problem that comes along with so many new “products” offered in the contemporary age; electronic device addictions, video game addictions—they prohibit people from moving forward, from living healthy lifestyles, and from being aware of our surroundings. More worryingly, severe addiction can cause players to become intertwined between the real world and the world of augmented reality.
Pokémon Go is a perfectly harmless game if played in sensible frequency at safe locations. In fact, it is a member of a special group of games that has the potential to enhance the player’s physical fitness. Yet it can be incredibly dangerous if played without moderation—physically, due to life-threatening accidents, and mentally, due to crippling addiction.