Pokémon Go players are wandering into a world of pain

Pokémon Go mania is in full force. Perhaps eager to close out a week of horrifying current events, users are downloading the addictive augmented reality smartphone game in droves. (The demand has crashed servers, causing Niantic, the Google-funded startup behind the app, to pause the game’s international rollout.) But in their roving, face-in-screen, real-world quest to catch ’em all, some players are walking and even driving into harm’s way. 

Almost as quickly as the game has spread, so too have reports of health hazards, bizarre encounters and warnings about the potential risks. The app, which asks users to navigate the real world in search of virtual characters who appear on their phone screens, is causing some to complain about fatigue and sore legs (which, as likely signs of exercise, may be its most positive real-world impact).

Meanwhile, reports on social media say that some players have sustained injuries while trying to catch monsters, including a Reddit user who said they fell in a ditch. “Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot, 6-8 weeks for recovery,” wrote the user, Amalthea. “I told all the doctors I was walking my dog lol.”

Authorities in Washington state advised people against playing Pokémon Go while driving, which is apparently a very common activity that is bound to have disastrous consequences at some point. Meanwhile, a teenager in Wyoming reportedly found a (real, not virtual) dead body in the course of playing. In Australia, police had to warn users against using their headquarters as a “Pokéstop” in the game. And a week of heightened violence and racial tension has at least one writer thinking about the unique risks that people of color may face by navigating the real world differently because of the immersive app. “The premise of Pokémon Go asks me to put my life in danger if I choose to play it as it is intended and with enthusiasm,” wrote Omari Akil. 

So far, meanwhile, plenty of monster hunters of all backgrounds have come close to walking into traffic. In its Terms of Service, Niantic urges users to “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.”

The dangers of the Pokémon Go craze aren’t just physical: players are also being urged to be on the lookout for another monster, a fake, backdoor-installing Android version of the game.

Careful out there in real life, folks. 

[Photo: via the Official Pokemon Channel / YouTube]