According to the USA today, Pokemon Go has over 15 million downloads. And while the numbers are not concreted (as there are more downloads every minute), it is clear to see that the application is growing to a global viral status. Pokémon Go allows the user to interact between the real work and the virtual world.
It is a new form of augmented reality and gaming. Primarily, the user has to find real world locations which house the virtual Pokémon ball or character. For the avid fan, this application brings the fictional world to life. But is the application safe? Concerns among various users and sites have said that perhaps there is more danger to the application than one may think.
1. Data Use and Purchases
The Pokémon Go game is technically free. You can download and access the game without having any cost incurred. However, like many games which are based upon a free download platform, there are in game purchase options which are available. For the most part the users have the self-control and discretion to purchase in moderation. Yet, for users which have their Google account synced with the device and that device in the hands of a younger player who does not have such discretion in purchasing, fees can quickly add up. It is after all only the click/tap of a button to get the in game power boosts.
In addition to the in game purchases, there is also the data usage of the phone to consider. Unless a person has an unlimited data usage plan, he or she may go over their allotted data use. If there are phone charges for any time used over the data limit, you may see a high phone bill.
2. Trespassing Charges
Perhaps one of the easiest dangers to fall prey to is trespassing and overstepping boundaries. A recent news report showed teenagers unknowingly crossing international borders illegally. Business owners have complained about Pokémon Go users trying to access warehouses and loading docks to get a ball, and private establishments have noted non-paying customers entering their facility for the same such purpose. Where the game may provide an outside element of engagement, it is clear that there has been a disregard for the boundaries within the real world, and here lies the danger. According to Dalia Lašaitė, co-founder and CEO of CGTrader, “3D games and interaction is a vital part of our modern society. However, when the line between reality and the real world fades, it is equally essential that those users, specifically younger audiences, realize and respect the social and physical boundaries, regardless of how entertaining the game is.” Those which trespass are apt to incur charges for trespassing, put themselves at danger of being shot upon in certain restricted areas, and greatly increase the likelihood of injury when entering spaces such as construction zones and high voltage containment areas.
3. Collision Course
Where texting and driving has proven to be a major problem within the automotive industry, walking and texting and app use is just as dangerous in certain instances. Congested city streets leave the user prone to stepping into oncoming traffic. Additionally, those which are constantly looking down are not as aware of his or her surroundings. More focus is given to the on-screen map than to the real world environment. Keep in mind that while most players will use the game during the daylight hours, one can still play at night. This further increases the risk of collisions with their environment, wandering into traffic, of stepping in front of a subway train. And though it may seem like common sense for a person not to use the phone when walking down a flight of stairs or when they are beside a busy street, one has only to look at the number of people texting and talking on their phones while performing such actions to conclude that Pokémon Go will just be an addition to the unsafe practices of users while walking.
4. Stranger Danger
In addition to the trespassing and the probability that you will run into (quite literally) someone else, there is the great safety concern dealing with strangers. Obviously, older viewers are less apt to fall victim to stranger interactions and harmful situations. Yet, the younger players have already shown that this is a concern. Users have been noted for going up to random houses and knocking on the door, just to ask if he or she can access the house or the yard to get a Pokémon ball. Where there are strangers and younger audiences involved, there should be a major concern about the safety of the player. Currently, there are no proximity settings and no safety features to keep younger players from walking up to the door of the next John Gacy.
5. Unwanted Pictures and video
Pokémon Go allows for the user to take pictures of characters which are seen in the wild. And where this adds a bit of multimedia fun to the overall game, it opens a major door in terms of security and safety. As more and more people flock to the game, it is becoming more difficult to determine which users are actually playing the Pokémon Go application and which users are using the phone for other purposes. Specifically, a person could open up their video recorder and follow you stating that they are playing the game. Additionally, a person could snap your picture and claim that they were capturing a ball or such.
Overall, the game poses too many problems to be safely integrated into the market place for all users. Older and more responsible users should download and play the game. However, because the game primarily caters to the younger crowd, safeguards and measures should be taken by the development team to minimize the safety risk posed here and elsewhere by the game.