With a growing number of accounts concerning Pokémon GO players getting into potential danger when hitting the streets and forests catching creatures, I think there’s reason to take a moment and think about how gaming in the real world is different from gaming indoors. There’s something about navigating more than one world at once that can disarm us of our usual situational awareness and understanding of our impact. Having long played Ingress, a similar game also by Google spin-off Niantic, I decided to chat with a few of my fellow Ingress agents to see if we could think of a few pieces of advice for keeping safe and having a good time. Here’s what we came up with.
First and foremost, remember that it’s easy to get lost in the screen. We’ve all forgotten where we are or tried to cross a street while playing the game. Don’t do it. Be aware of your location and the potential dangers around you. Traffic is probably the biggest thing to watch out for when chasing down monsters on any street, but there are other things to watch for you don’t even think about until you’ve decided to dedicate a good portion of your awareness to an addictive game.
Don’t let the objectives of the game blind you to the real dangers present in our world. Sometimes it’s good to put the phone down and think: “Would this normally be a stunt I’d pull if this weren’t a game? Is this worth it?” Climbing out on ledges or entering dangerous areas is rarely worth the risk. It’s sometimes best to put your responsible adult hat on and tell yourself “No, let’s just keep moving on to the next thing.” This player in Antarctica, for instance, probably shouldn’t walk around to hatch that egg when doing so means likely death.
Have a Buddy
Playing with a friend serves a number of useful purposes. Firstly, you’ve got an extra pair of eyes that will help you be aware of your environment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped a friend from walking into a pole while playing Ingress. Secondly, having a friend along provides safety. You never know when you’re going to end up somewhere you’ve never been. Though the game is built on a map, sometimes you’ll get tempted to go up into the hills where cell reception and GPS get spotty. Plus we know that shady folks are using in-game lures to pull people into locations to rob them. Let’s not get paranoid about that kinda stuff, but having a friend along is a pretty fun way to help ward off potential predators.
While it may seem like there are hordes of people playing, it’s a good idea to get to know major players in your area. If you see someone playing, talk to them. If possible, organize ways to communicate with each other in your local area, such as by creating a town Pokémon GO subreddit. Ingress players have developed globe-spanning communities for each team, convening massive operations against each other and writing programs to help in playing the game. The more of a community you form the easier it will be to get help when problems arise and it will make the game all the more real and powerful.
Think About Your Impact
Safety is not the only reason to think about where you are when you play. The locations the game decides are important were not hand selected by a person in most cases. They have not been carefully vetted. Some will be private property or inside emergency-related government buildings. Be aware that you’re just one of many Pokémon GO players who might visit a site regularly. Would you want someone coming by your house in the middle of the night? Would you want 30 strangers showing up several times a day to just hang? Are you and your friends blocking an important entrance? Be aware of your impact as a part of a larger player base.
For that matter try not to be the problem people in an area. Never litter, and try to be friendly. Here’s an example of graffiti from players already. Though the cleanup response is a nice effort, ideally let’s not be in the position to deal with team graffiti in the first place. Trashing the world is not what this is supposed to be about.
Connect with Non-Players
If you go to a business regularly in the course of gaming, start spending money there. If a police officer seems to be keeping an eye on you, have a talk with them about what you’re doing. Making sure those who don’t play the game are aware of what you’re doing and why is a great way to keep them from thinking the worst. A friendly attitude goes a long way in terms of making allies rather than enemies. It’s amazing how often you’ll actually find out that someone watching you plays too and has a few pointers.
So go out there and catch ’em all, just do it with your head on straight and you’ll be fine. Any other pointers we missed, let us know in the comments.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo