The legendary Pokémon has captured the hearts of many teens and adults alike since the franchise was created in 1995. It has survived criticism by religious and scholarly people, animal rights activists and has been accused of promoting materialism. But now the finding that this game is becoming a reason for increase accidents on the road will make the Pokémon wrestle to avoid a ‘go’ from the scene.
A recently published study, led by author John W Ayers, PhD, MA, of Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, has pointed out that Pokémon GO is a hindrance for better road safety as it distracts people on the road and this has led to disastrous outcomes.
The researchers analyzed 4,000 randomly selected tweets from 345,433 Twitter posts from 10-19 July which contained the words “Pokémon” and “driving”, “drives”, “drive” or “car” and each tweet was characterized as to whether a driver or passenger was playing or a pedestrian was involved while playing Pokémon GO. In addition, they also included 321 reports of vehicle accidents due to Pokémon GO by Goggle News from 10-20 July which contained the words “Pokémon” and “driving”. The study got published in JAMA Intern Med.
The researchers found that 33% or 113,993 of tweets reviewed showed that a person in a car or a passerby was distracted by Pokémon GO in the last ten days. 18% of tweets were by drivers, 11% of tweets by passengers and 4% by pedestrians. The common tweets included “omg I’m catching Pokémon and driving” and “almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon GO”.
The American Automobile Association says that 59% of motor vehicle crashes happen within 6 seconds of distraction among young drivers. This preoccupation by 16 to 24 year olds playing Pokémon GO has waned safety measures on the road. The scientists point out that passengers using cell phones are not necessarily considered a risk on the road but they add to reduced road safety when they are using augmented reality features of the device, like Pokémon GO.
By now Pokémon GO is played by 20 million people in the US alone and has convinced people, mostly millennials, to spend more time outdoors than indoors. Its augmented reality feature adds more sugar to honey by making it one of the first applications to make good and complete use of augmentation for entertainment (there are other games but not as viral as Pokémon GO).
According to Fortune, this perhaps enlightens the path of augmented reality to a promising future. But too much indulgence of the same thing has a dark side, one of them being road accidents and the other being captivation and excessive indulgence in a virtual world.
Recently, it was reported on NBC that a woman in New Jersey got stuck in a tree in a graveyard while hunting for “Pokémon monsters” and had to be rescued by the authorities who later warned people on Facebook: “For all those out there playing Pokémon Go, take heed of all of the warnings and be careful not to put yourself into bad situations. Think about what you are doing and where you are going before you actually do it.”
Furthermore, there are numerous stories, again reported on NBC, of people falling off cliffs, trespassing into private or governmental property, showing a lack of respect towards monuments and historical places and going outdoors in the middle of the night, which increases your chances of getting mugged. One brave person got stabbed but kept playing and another fell down and broke his legs while hunting for monsters.
The obsession of Pokémon GO has quickly generated what older people call “millennial stereotypes”, those who are obsessed with their cell phones. A survey has pointed out that 830 out of 1,000 Pokémon players they selected for participation were too self-absorbed and had absolutely no clue how they arrived at a location way out of their way.
Scientists have grappled to explain the psychological aspects of Pokémon GO. A psychologist in New York, Leah Lagos, argues, “Why are people feeling the need to ‘catch ‘em all’ on Pokémon GO”? She says that the game plays with people’s mental behavior, the nervous system gets activated and hiking more than necessary increases heartbeat and there is a rush of adrenaline in the body. But in the long run, it makes you feel tired and exhausted with short attention span and your ability to switch between reality and fantasy.
Kimberly Young from the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery says that Pokémon GO being a video game taps into the pleasure part of the brain associated with addiction. Consequently, there is a rush of dopamine and the person feels good, making them hook up with the game for hours.
Young notes that men who sit at their computers for hours at an end playing games sometimes even develop blood clots in their legs. But now Pokémon GO is making both men and women go outside and is sweeping them to do something compelling.