Pokémon Go is all the rage. The app was created by Niantic, Inc. and is published by the Pokémon company which is one-third owned by Nintendo. The game application works on your smartphone. It overlays images of Pokémon characters on your phone’s camera screen. Looking at your local firehouse through your phone’s camera? You might see a character, sometimes referred to generically as a Pikachu. The goal of the game is to collect as many characters as you can find. There are hundreds. And you might find them anywhere in the world.
Navigating to collect these Pikachus means walking with your head down to best view your screen. All that stumbling about has created havoc both indoors and outdoors. Although only public places are said to be collecting points, sensitive public spaces have been beset by gamers. The Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum are just two of many sites which wish gamers would stay clear of.
The possible legal issues involving Pokémon Go are already many and unsettled. Trespassing laws are certainly violated when players wander into private spaces. Liability law comes into play if a player or property are injured. What if you break your ankle while playing the game? Or what if you drive your car into a house while trying to capture a Pikachu? Is Niantic partially responsible?
Already reports of accident and injuries have started to come in… two men recently fell off a cliff near San Diego and had to be rescued. They were distracted while playing Pokémon. In Auburn, New York, a driver crashed into a tree while playing the game. On July 7, a user on Reddit metioned that “Pokemon Go put me in the ER” in a thread about the game. “Not even 30 minutes after the release last night, I slipped and fell down a ditch. Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot, 6-8 weeks for recovery. I told all the doctors I was walking my dog lol… Watch where you’re going, folks!,” the poster wrote. In western Pennsylvania a woman told a news station that her 15-year-old daughter was struck by a vehicle while playing Pokemon Go and crossing a busy highway. The girl reportedly went to the hospital with injuries to her collarbone and foot, and some cuts and bruises. In any case involving a serious injury consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is always advised.
“During game play, please 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.”
Again, merely by saying that the company has no responsibility does not mean they are automatically free of claims that might arise.
Pokémon Go exists in the world of augmented reality, a field that will certainly grow. A participant not only risks interactions with the world while inherently distracted, they give up much of their privacy, since the entire experience is tracked and that data collected by the application’s owner.
Lawsuits against the game maker might be on horizon only time will tell.