The great thing about the new “ Pokémon Go” game for iPhone and Android is that it encourages players to explore the real world in their quest to “catch ’em all.”
But that also has the potential to place players in harm’s way: Just on Friday afternoon, less than 72 hours after the game’s launch, a teenager in Wyoming came across a dead body while walking by the river in search of a water-type Pokémon.
And players of “Ingress,” the previous and highly similar game by “Pokémon Go” developers Niantic, were known for getting into the odd spot of trouble with the police.
So first and foremost, there’s one safety tip you should know when you’re playing “Pokémon Go,” says Niantic CEO John Hanke:
When you see a Pokémon on the map that you want to catch, “you don’t have to take another step.”
That is to say: If you’re sitting at home, and you see a rare monster — Pikachu, let’s say — appear in your neighbour’s yard, you don’t have to hop any fences to get it. Just click it. Same if you see a monster pop up in the middle of traffic or at the bottom of a ravine. Don’t take another step.
“That was a very deliberate choice,” says Hanke.
Along similar lines, if you’re crossing an intersection and you see a Pokémon appear on your phone, it will stay put until you get to the other side. Again, a very purposeful choice to minimise the chances that someone will run into traffic to catch a Pokémon.
Real world, real danger
As far as the Pokéstops and Gyms — the real-world landmarks and historical sites that also serve as places for players to power up and battle — Hanke says that they’re chosen under very specific criteria. The locations were largely crowdsourced from dedicated players of the “Ingress” game and imported to the new game.
Those spots have to be safe and publicly available, meaning that they can’t be on private property or anywhere you might get arrested for trespassing. The point is for them to be accessible by everyone.
“We’re trying to make everything on our side as safe as we can,” Hanke says. “We’ve gotten to a pretty good place.”
Still, Hanke says, players should heed the warning that the game gives you every time you log in and watch where you’re going while you play, the same way you would if you were using a running app or Google Maps walking directions.
“You gotta keep your head up,” Hanke says.
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