Pokemon app endangers players, explodes nationwide

Jessica Van Sack,
Boston Herald

The Zombie Apocalypse has arrived — in the form of a ridiculous mobile app that has transformed millions of people into mindless stumbling bots.

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that launched last week on Android and iOS in the biggest app debut of all time.

And it’s causing real-life mayhem.

Police in Missouri said yesterday four armed robbers used the game’s geolocation feature to lure unwitting players in the middle of the night. Others are getting injured while becoming distracted by the game, and one woman even went so far off the beaten path that she found a dead body.

The game, available on iOS and Android, superimposes little anime monsters (Pokemons) on real-world locations using your smartphone camera, and lets players — aka “trainers” — capture them. The monsters are geolocated throughout your surroundings — all around the world, in fact. Your smartphone lets you know when one is near. Unlike most mobile games that can be played on a couch, in this one you’re out and about, leading to people stumbling around with their smartphones at eye level looking for pretend creatures — like zombies.

It seems as if Pokemon Go will do more than just dominate the app store charts. It also stands to reinvent its parent company Nintendo for millennials, who had long since abandoned the company that made Super Mario a household name. Nintendo shares soared last week on the revived Pokemon brand, which nobody had even thought of for two decades.

But mostly, the game has provided a new window into our own stupidity.

The app warns players to “remember to be alert” at all times. Be aware of your surroundings.”

The number of people who have ignored that is astounding.

There are now entire Reddit threads devoted to Pokemon injuries. A player named Porosareus described his “painful landing” after trying to skateboard while playing.

“Pokemon Go put me in the ER last night,” wrote user Amalthea, who fell into a ditch. Imgur showed a car with “Frequent Stops” and a Pokemon sticker on the back — warning other motorists the driver of this vehicle is a dangerous moron.

A 19-year-old Wyoming girl stumbled on a drowned man’s body while searching for an animated mutant. She told local TV she was “trying to get a Pokemon from a natural water resource.”

The app designates “Pokestops” worldwide where users can capture geolocated creatures in the real world — including an Australian police station that had to issue a statement advising users “you don’t have to actually step inside in order to gain the pokeballs.”

As for the robbery suspects, police in O’Fallon, Mo., reported the four men arrested were able to “add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players” — and then robbed those players at gunpoint.

It’s clear that we’re just not civilized enough to handle the power of Pikachu.