It’s officially a craze, but Pokemon Go might be putting some players in harm’s way. The new augmented reality (AR) game from Nintendo, based on the popular game and TV show from the 1990s, requires players to hunt for digital Pokemon on their smartphones.
The creatures are placed using GPS and an algorithm created by Niantic Labs, a San Francisco-based software developer spun off from Google. Unlike the original game, which was played on millions of Nintendo GameBoys, Pokemon Go calls for players to go outside and physically search for and catch their Pokemon quarries so they can train them. That has led to lots of fun for most players, but bad experiences for others.
Police in Omaha as well as in several Missouri cities have reported that Pokemon Go players have been robbed. The players in Missouri were robbed after visiting remote “Pokestops.” The robbers allegedly used digital items called lures to make the Pokestops more appealing to Pokemon, as well as to the players who followed them. Four suspects in one of the Missouri cases were charged with armed robbery. Other players have reported bruised shins and even broken bones sustained when they were too absorbed in the game to pay close attention to their surroundings.
The pitfalls of the game have taken more subtle forms. Some players have found themselves in neighborhoods where they felt viewed with suspicion by residents. Others have had their devices infected with viruses after downloading the game from third parties. And a Wyoming player had the unnerving experience of finding a dead body as she was playing the game.
We asked Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, if the various downsides to playing Pokemon Go should be cause for alarm. He told us that the isolated…