Pokémon was an extremely formative part of many a childhood across the globe. You don’t know struggle and frustration unless you’ve been in the backseat of a moving car and tried to button-mash your way through the Elite Four with nothing but your ambition and the faint glow of streetlights coming through the window. If you’re anything like me, though, squinting at your Game Boy wasn’t enough; I know I wasn’t the only kid who turned the playground, backyard, or anywhere else I was allowed to roam into a live-action Kanto.
Now it’s back, with the launch and instant virality of the new app/game/life habit Pokémon Go, and it almost feels like the franchise needs to release a public service announcement.
Our friends over at Niantic have given us Pokémon Go, and we are dutifully inching closer to living in a world where we no longer have to play pretend, where we can catch pocket monsters as we’ve always desired. I’m elated that GPS navigation and our childhood dreams have come together in this beautiful union. Pokémon Go turns your regular jaunt to the corner store into an opportunity to catch a Cubone, and while I couldn’t be happier for the ability to transform my normal life into an animated thriller, there’s a dangerous side to this brave new world of AR Pokémon.
Aside from the fact that people in Indiana might have to stick to playing with their basketball rings, folks are, rather predictably, going a little too hard to capture our digital friends. There are adult humans who are taking padding their Pokédex very seriously. Nah, but actually this is wild: As if texting and driving didn’t put people’s lives in enough danger, now I have to worry about you tryna #catchemall on a major freeway?
In the game’s terms of service, Niantic explicitly states that you should “be aware of your surroundings and play safely. You agree that your use of the App and play of the game is at your own risk, and it is your responsibility to maintain such health, liability, hazard, personal injury, medical, life, and other insurance policies as you deem reasonably necessary for any injuries that you may incur while using the Services.” Do any other apps in the game category of the App Store soft-suggest an insurance policy? (No, seriously, please tell us if they do!)
The addiction is real and is endangering players (and bystanders) outside the car: people are wandering aimlessly around my apartment complex, too. Not to get too dark, but a very serious injury at the hands of Pokémon Go feels inevitable. (The relatively minor ones are already piling up.)
[Update: And if you aren’t already scared about bodily injury, you should be wary of emotional scars: A player in Wyoming was playing Pokémon Go only to come across a body Friday morning.]
I completely understand we have this new chance to catch the OG 151 Pokémon in a unique way, but, fam, please: Do not Poké and drive. I repeat do not Poké and drive.