The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Pokemon Go!
Pokemon Go! became an instant hit within it's first week of being released from creators Niantic, Inc and their partners Nintendo. With more than 15 million downloads and growing, it's obvious that Pokemon is no longer just a kids craze. Niantic took the branded step-brainchild of Nintendo, that once started out as a simple trading card game, and turned it into an addictingly simple augmented reality game for cell phones that has become a household hit.
Sadly, this world is thick in Murphy's Law, which means that if anything can go wrong, it's likely to, and usually at the worst possible. Pokemon Go hasn't come without it's own touch of negative outcomes, just like everything else in this world. As the games popularity grows, we've started seeing more and more incidents of misfortune and abuse.
Everything from young players falling off of cliffs while out hunting, to premeditated robbery using the games lure feature. There have been increasing reports of folks wandering into traffic, trees, and ditches. There's been at least one report of a scared homeowner firing a gun at the car of a few Pokemon Go players parked in front of his house.
There's been plenty of good news too. Aside from millions of American's getting out and having fun while they exercise, there's also been stories and reports of upright citizens helping each other out. One of these stories, a personal favorite of mine, was when a woman was driving home from work and spotted a young woman sitting on a lonely bus stop in a scary part of her city, playing the game. There were young men hanging out nearby as well, which made the woman driver curious. She decided to follow her hunch, turned the car around and pulled up near the girl and asked if she would like a ride home while she played Pokemon Go. The girl happily accepted the woman's offer, and on the way home, thank her profusely. She admitted that she had been concerned about the guys who had been edging closer to her bench, but hadn't known what else to do until the bus arrived.
So as we can all see, this interesting new world of gaming comes with the good, bad, and ugly.
You can help!
With the game growing in popularity, it becomes more and more important for us all to look out for each other. As adults we have a responsibility to do what we can to look out for others, especially children and teens.
There's plenty of things we can do too, and thankfully, I've compiled five of them here in a list just for those of you who are awesome enough to look for ways to help out.
A local Poke Gym near my home in North Seattle
1. Be Observant
With most Pokemon Go mishaps happening from folks not looking where they're going, one of the most helpful things we can do as experienced adults, is to be extra observant. On most days, we're just thinking about not tripping on the curb ourselves. Though it doesn't hurt anything to check with the folks around us, and make sure they're not walking out into the middle of traffic before the walk sign gave them permission.
The same goes for when you're on the hunt in a park, at the beach, or even out in the woods. It only takes a few seconds to look at your phone, and only a few seconds to look away from it at the folks around you. If you see that someone is glued to their phone, all it takes is a simple "Hello, you playing too?" and you can recapture their attention. Simple things like that can make a bigger difference than it might seem at first. And down the road, you never know, you might just save someone's life.
2. Reach Out
If someone looks worried, scared, lonely, unsure, or troubled in some other way, reach out to them, especially if they're younger. No one is a mind reader, so you'll never really know why a person seems troubled until they tell you, but it could be that all they needed was for someone to reach out and show them that they can get help all around them. It's like with the young girl at the bus stop at night. She might not have been brave enough to try and flag down a safe ride, but once an upright citizen offered her one, she was happy to accept.
You can be that person too, even without offering rides, just by being observant. Say hello to folks, and keep your eyes peeled for anyone who looks uncomfortable and out of place. Offer to help if it looks like someone could use it.
Sometimes it's the simplest things that are the most profound.
3. Scout Lures
Of all the scary things you hear on the news, one of the worst to think about are the times when a bad guy or gal has lured some unsuspecting victim into a trap. This is especially bothersome when it comes to Pokemon Go, which has a built in feature specifically called lures that are designed to draw out Pokemon and create an extra fun playing environment for any hunters near by. The only problem is, with Pokemon lures so easily drawing in eager players, they're also drawing out eager criminals.
Now, a sad truth about life is that there's no way to know where all these villains are going to be at the times they decide to strike. Though that doesn't mean we can't make their desires extra difficult to quench. Whether they're just looking to steal or far worse, you can easily help foil their plans by scouting out any lures you see in your neighborhood or where ever you're playing, especially if they're not in heavily populated playing areas.
This could be as simple as driving by the lures location and making sure there aren't any kids or folks playing alone in easily hidden areas. You could even take an extra step and use companion apps like GoChat to leave a message for any other players who have it, let them know if you got bad vibes or saw something suspicious in that area.
You can also protect yourself by practicing these safety tips and sharing them with others:
- Always try to take a fellow trainer or two with when hunting at night.
- If you really must hunt alone at night, take a dog, some pepper spray, and an extra cell phone battery.
- Don't travel to any poke stops or lure spots down long dark alleys or other obviously creepy locations.
- If you're instincts are telling you that something is wrong, get out of there!
- If you notice any suspicious activity near a lure spot, report it.
4. Bring an Extra Power Bank
Most Pokemon Go players are learning that if they want to be able to keep playing when the hunt is hot, they need to invest in a trusty Power Bank that allows them to recharge they're cell phone's battery after it gets the life sucked out of it by the game.
This is smart. Though what's even smarter, is carrying an extra charged up power bank on you, just in case you spot someone else who might need it. That someone else could be a young kid who didn't think about getting one or who couldn't afford one, and that extra charge you could offer, might help get them home safely.
Power Banks are generally not very expensive, so it's not difficult to carry an extra one on you, and there are plenty of situations where you could save the day with your extra bank.
5. Carry First Aid
One of the most obvious and least thought about things that every adult Pokemon Go player can and should be doing: carrying a first aid kit.
When headlines pop out, they're usually covering the big stuff that really freaks people out. What you don't often see are all the little things that happen, that are always emergencies, but many of them are still situations where a helpful person could really make a difference, especially in an injured kids life.
I've already found myself lending a hand to a few skateboarding teenagers, and cycling pre-teens, all who had mishaps while out playing Pokemon Go in popular parks. Of course, being a parent, I usually carry some first aid supplies anyways, but they seem to come in as even more handy these days.
Most of the kids you'll see hunting are old enough to be out unsupervised, but that doesn't mean they're experienced enough to know what to do when one of them wipes out from their skateboard or bike because they were too involved in the game. Road rash and sprained ankles might not be worthy of headline news, but they're certainly worthy of a compassionate hand with some spare band aides or aces wraps.
The List Goes On
Obviously this isn;t an exhaustive list of things that we should all be doing to look out for each other, though hopefully it's a decent start with easy enough action steps. If we all follow even just one or two of them, we can help make this world a safer place where the simple joys can reign supreme.