A new app is blowing up the internet. If you haven't heard about it, you will. The popular Pokémon card game and television show has morphed into a cell phone game where players can walk around and "capture" Pokémon- small digital creatures that live in poke balls. Different Pokémon are found in different places and certain buildings and landmarks serve other purposes in the game like restocking points and "gyms" where players can battle their Pokémon against each other. Not wanting to write in ignorance, I downloaded the game to test it out and also talked to several players. I started by capturing my first Pokémon, which happened to be sitting on my desk. I opened the game when I arrived at court this morning to see if our legal system had been invaded by small digital monsters and low and behold there were several hanging out in the parking lot, one in the general sessions court room and I heard there was one in the circuit court room yesterday. The old theater across the street from my office is a restocking point and the local community college is a gym. I could see how the game could become addicting. A little walking and finger swipes and you are collecting these creatures that you can battle with.
It is a great concept and it does something that other cell phone games do not- it forces the player to be physically active. Businesses are even learning how to monetize the presence of randomly occurring Pokémon in their on places of business.
But it also raises some interesting legal and social issues.
Our paralegal, who also fancies herself a Pokémon trainer, told us about a small child that wandered up to their door one evening and asked if he could go into their backyard because there was a Pokémon waiting to be captured back there.
The Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery are having problems with people coming in to capture Pokémon that are appearing within the walls and on the cemetery grounds. These trainers are disturbing the peace and dignity expected at these places of solemn remembrance. Still others are wandering into private buildings and yards to try to catch the creatures they see on their maps without regard to who might actually care that people are wandering around. Is it really worth another Bulbasaur to have misdemeanor charges or even risk your health and safety wandering into dangerous situations.
Other reports have come out about players wandering around with their heads down into traffic and other dangerous situations. These reports have even included players being robbed while they were distracted from their surroundings. Still others have Departments of Transportation warning against players trying to catch Pokémon while driving.
I am the last person to be against physical exercise, especially with the obesity epidemic in today's children, but please remember these few tips to be a socially-conscious trainer:
- Not everyone can see that you are playing a game. Be courteous and look up to avoid accidentally running into anyone. No one wants a negligent injury or battery claim.
- Don't enter onto private property without permission or into private businesses without asking. Trespass can be a crime.
- Respect the rights of others to enjoy public places without your game interfering in that.
- Don't Pokémon and drive. Reckless driving is dangerous and illegal.
- Stay aware of your surroundings and use common sense when it comes to where you should and shouldn't be.
- Parents- watch your children. Some of these escapades can lead them toward traffic or water hazards.
- If you are questioned about what you are doing, explain. Try to diffuse the situation. Don't become defensive. It is better to leave the area than to cause a legal issue. It is only a game.
Only time will tell how society and players will react to this new game.
Until then, Go! Play Pokémon but remember to keep it safe, sane, and respectful.