“You take your video games too seriously. It’s like you think it’s real life.” This is something every gamer has heard before. Last Tuesday afternoon two men fell off the bluff area around E Street in Encinitas playing the new Nintendo game “Pokémon Go” on their cell phones. The first man fell just after 1 p.m. While being treated, the emergency response teams watched the second man fall off the bluffs about 75 to 100 feet away. It is disturbing to think a game or phone app could distract someone so thoroughly that two men would walk off the same cliff within minutes of one another. It brings to mind a horror film where a man walks straight into a woodchipper, completely aware but unable to stop himself. The men in Encinitas were both taken to Scripps La Jolla Trauma Center by rescue crews with moderate injuries.
Pokémon Go is a location-based reality mobile game developed by Niantic, Nintendo and published by The Pokémon Company. It was released earlier in July for iOS and Android and allows gamers to engage each other in the real world. Game related accidents caused controversy in the first few days of its release, but Pokemon also became the most downloaded app in the United States within days of release. Pokémon Go is now the golden boy of Nintendo’s stocks. The incident in Encinitas gives a local gauge on the Pokémon controversy. The question is, are these isolated incidents, or is this a bigger problem.
Nationwide there has been a rash of accidents linked to the game. NBC reports a man was stabbed in an Anaheim park last Tuesday by a group of men in their late teens to early twenties that were believed to have been playing Pokémon Go. Last Monday Texas A&M University Police reported a driver running straight into parked cars while playing. Steven Carey (28) reportedly wrapped his car around a tree last Tuesday in Auburn New York while trying to catch a “blue sea creature” Cary suffered a broken ankle and lacerations. In Pennsylvania a 15 year old girl was struck by a vehicle earlier this week. Her condition remains stable but she is still hospitalized. In Ohio Tuesday, three teenage boys were stopped at Perry Nuclear Power Plant when they trespassed on the site in pursuit of Pokémon characters. These incidents across the nation paint a grim picture.
Over the past decade handheld devices have become part of everyday life. They are problematic and often fatal on our road and highway systems, linked to failed marriages, and become a nightmare for educators in the classroom. Students scoff at instructors who ask them to discontinue or even limit their usage. And this behavior is not improving. With the incidents in relation to Pokémon Go, it is clear they are not only a nuisance, but have become dangerous. How do we manage this problem. This is the million dollar question.
To many, texting while driving seems as bad as driving under the influence. Every day we see people walk into sliding glass doors, streetlamps and into traffic. Campus Police have had no reports on Pokémon accidents as of last Thursday, but imagine if one of our own unwittingly stepped into oncoming traffic. Stay aware out there Spartans, break the cyber-crack addiction and enjoy the summer sunshine. Wait until you’re stationary to stare into the oracle.