Pokemon fever sweeps nation, but some safety concerns emerge
Rick Abbott Forum News Service FARGO -- Skateboarding down a sidewalk in Fargo, eyes on his iPhone, Isaac Schultz, 21, was on the lookout for some rare creatures. As he stopped at a downtown intersection, Schultz hoped to spot one on his smartpho...
Forum News Service
FARGO - Skateboarding down a sidewalk in Fargo, eyes on his iPhone, Isaac Schultz, 21, was on the lookout for some rare creatures. As he stopped at a downtown intersection, Schultz hoped to spot one on his smartphone and snatch it up.
Schultz was one of many mostly young people on Monday, July 11, playing a new mobile game, Pokémon GO, that’s captivated the country, as players canvass the real world to collect the game’s characters.
The iPhone and Android mobile game app uses a phone’s GPS sensors to track where you are, and uses a Google map as the primary game board to display the player’s location and a world of hidden Pokémon characters, “gyms” where players can battle it out for supremacy with their Pokémon, and Pokéstops, where they can pick up items to help in their quest to collect them all.
It’s called “augmented reality” because the phone’s display interacts with Pokémon game objects.
As the player gets closer to a patch of rustling leaves on the map, the Pokémon pops up, and can be caught by the flick of an on-screen Pokéball.
Dozens of Poké-catchers were seen over the weekend in downtown Fargo, and a light rain Monday wasn’t a deterrent for most. Handfuls of players even scoured Island Park as late as midnight Sunday, July 10.
Kevin Zacchea, 19, was a fan when the Pokémon franchise caught on in the late 90s, but his interest waned as he grew up. The new mobile game ignited nostalgia for Zacchea as he strolled downtown on his day off.
“For me it’s like, finally, I get to actually go out in the real world, actually walk around and actually play Pokémon,” Zacchea said Monday.
Just a few steps away, Marley Lessar, 22, was also on the hunt Monday.
She watched the TV show as a kid and now finds the game, which requires players to get out into the world and walk around to find Pokémon, is an easy excuse for exercise.
“I’m definitely getting more active,” Lessar said.
Walking on his way back to work, Dan Davy, 29, was using the time to ferret out some of his favorite characters on Monday. He played the popular card game about 15 years ago, but hasn’t since then.
“You can do it just while you’re bored; it’s not too competitive, kind of light-hearted,” Davy said.
At the very least, it’s a relaxing way to get some fresh air, he said.
But the popular game is already raising safety concerns.
In a St. Louis suburb last weekend, four teenagers were accused of targeting nearly a dozen unsuspecting Pokémon hunters, robbing them at gunpoint, TV station KSDK reported.
In central Wyoming last Friday, a 19-year-old woman searching for the creatures instead spotted a body floating in a river, KTVQ-TV reported. “It was pretty shocking,” Shayla Wiggins told the station.
There have also been reports of minor injuries around the country as players traverse off-road terrain in their quest to “catch” Pokémon.
“If I play at night, I’ll just do it downtown or somewhere there’s a lot of people,” Lessar said.
For the most part, staying aware of your surroundings should keep you from a tumble or worse.
“It’s always important to make sure you’re always alert and you’re always on the defense,” said Fargo Police Department crime prevention officer Jessica Schindeldecker.
It may seem like common sense, but when players are in heat of the hunt, they might be unaware of dangers like an oncoming tree, uneven path or, in some cases, someone looking to snatch a phone, Schindeldecker said.
“If you’re aware and you’re alert of what’s going on around you, you’re probably going to be less likely to become a victim,” she said.
Also to keep in mind are your phone’s security settings. Users can turn off location sharing app by app, though the Pokémon game needs access to the phone’s GPS in order to work.
For now, Fargo cops haven’t seen any incidents related to Pokémon GO, Schindeldecker said.
“It’s pretty early on, too,” she said.