The “augmented reality” game, which layers gameplay onto the physical world, became the top grossing app in the iPhone app store just days after its Wednesday release in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. And players have already reported wiping out in a variety of ways as they wander the real world — eyes glued to their smartphone screens — in search of digital monsters.
Mike Schultz, a 21-year-old communications graduate on Long Island, New York, took a spill on his skateboard as he stared at his phone while cruising for critters early Thursday. He cut his hand on the sidewalk after hitting a big crack, and blames himself for going too slowly.
“I just wanted to be able to stop quickly if there were any Pokemons nearby to catch,” he says. “I don’t think the company is really at fault.”
Real World, Virtual Creatures
The game was created by Niantic Inc., a San Francisco spinoff of Google parent Alphabet Inc. that previously became known for a similar augmented-reality game called “Ingress.”
To play, you fire up the game and then start trekking to prominent local landmarks — represented in the game as “Pokestops” — where you can gather supplies such as Pokeballs. Those are what you fling at online “pocket monsters,” or Pokemon, to capture them for training. At other locations called “gyms” — which may or may not be actual gyms in the real world — Pokemon battle one another for supremacy.
Naturally, the game has also induced people to post pictures of themselves on social media chasing creatures in all sorts of dangerous situations.
Zubats and Paras have appeared on car dashboards. Caterpies have been spotted at intersections. Police in Darwin, Australia, have even asked players not to waltz into their station, which of course is a Pokestop in the game.
A New Social Medium
“You don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs,” the Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services says on its Facebook page.