A month since its release on July 6, 2016, Pokémon Go, the first widely known, phone-based, augmented reality game, has over 100 million downloads worldwide. During this short period, it has been both praised and blamed for its impacts on the larger world. Some players with depression and social anxiety claim the game has helped them get outside and meet new people. Other players have had accidents caused by paying more attention to catching Pokémon (a portmanteau of “pocket monster”) than to other people, hazards, and obstructions. Pokémon Go is undeniably impacting how its millions of players participate in social space.
Pokémon Go developer Niantic is changing the way its players think about and interact with the world that exists underneath its augmented game layer. Pokémon Go constructs a player world that, rather than a purely fabricated virtual reality, is an augmented reality in which all of the elements of the game are overlaid on the external world and anchored to it. The object of the game is to to catch Pokémon within our everyday world. In order to catch Pokémon, players must physically go to the sidewalks, parks, or other locales where they can be found. Players must also visit “pokéstops” where pokémon-catching tools can be collected. Pokémon Go encourages social interaction with individuals, communities, and institutions. It leverages social networks and gaming to get players to engage with nature.
Mainly due to its potential to distract players, property and business owners should be aware of the likelihood of incidents related to Pokémon Go play. Pokémon Go has been criticized for using locations such as cemeteries, memorials, railway stations, fire stations, and schools as sites to catch Pokémon. Property and business owners need to be concerned about distracted players trespassing on their property to play the game as well as the attractive nuisance aspects of the game (e.g., some Pokémon “reside” on equipment, trees, or other potentially dangerous locations).
Police departments in various countries have issued warnings to players regarding inattentive driving, trespassing, and being targeted by criminals (wherein perpetrators entrap players by planting Pokémon in isolated places) due to being unaware of one’s surroundings. People have suffered various injuries from accidents related to the game. In Japan, the first accident occurred within hours of the game’s release.
The attractive nuisance doctrine applies to the law of torts in the United States. It states that a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children. Pokémon Go threatens to expand the concept of attractive nuisance to include “virtual objects.”
At the same time, augmented reality games may find a place in serious curricula and the workplace sooner than later.