Every few years a video game explodes on the scene and becomes a part of the cultural zeitgeist. A mustachioed Italian plumber did it in the ‘80s. Then a puzzle game where blocks fell from the sky, then virtual pets led to virtual farming. There was also the “Pokémon” phenomenon in the ‘90s. The first iteration of this series was wildly popular and spawned dozens of sequels across a number of gaming platforms, as well as comics, manga, movies and TV shows.
Then there’s “Pokémon Go.”
Whereas the original RPG version appealed mostly to kids, the new mobile application has crossed generational as well as gender barriers. Not bad for a game with the simple premise of hunting brightly colored creatures via your smartphone GPS. But while most of the news surrounding the “Pokémon Go” craze has been lighthearted and fun, there have also been some bizarre (and even tragic) happenings. Here are four of the more eyebrow-raising incidents that have resulted from folks embarking on these virtual safaris.
Near death while Poke-hunting
California is world-renowned for its beautiful southern coastline. And it’s on these beaches where two men nearly met their end while playing “Pokémon Go.” They were strolling along the coastal bluffs in Encinitas while glued to their smartphone screens when they took a 90-foot tumble. By all accounts the two were lucky to survive the event.
But this isn’t an isolated incident. A truck driver in Japan killed a pedestrian while he was playing the game; an Oregon resident crashed his vehicle into a tree because he was trying to capture Pokémon; a Long Island teen took a tumble off his skateboard and bloodied himself while on the hunt; and there have been countless reports of tripping and falling due to people focusing on their smartphone screens instead of paying attention to what’s in front of them.
Looking for Pokémon, finding a corpse
In Stephen King’s novella “The Body,” four friends go roaming the countryside in search of a corpse. In the end they find the deceased person—just as 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins of Riverton, Wyoming did while playing “Pokémon Go.” The teen discovered a drowning victim near a bridge and remarked to journalists, “I probably would have never went down there if it weren’t for this game.”
Holocaust remembrance and Pokémon
Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, is one of America’s most iconic final resting places. Its hallowed grounds bear the white tombstones of America’s veterans, JFK’s eternal flame, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Hardly an ideal location for a Pokéstop. Still, as of July 2016, the museum (and even the cemetery, according to some online reports) was rife with avid “Pokémon Go” players looking for in-game bonuses. When the museum got wind of this they contacted the game’s developer, Ninantic Labs, in an effort to get them to remove the location. Spokesmen also politely requested that visitors refrain from hunting fictitious animated creatures at a memorial site for the some six million people murdered by Nazis.
Ironically, the memorial may never be able to fully prevent such behavior, since the cemetery offers a mobile app to help visitors navigate the area. It could be difficult to tell whether that person who’s glued to their smartphone screen is looking for the headstone of a deceased relative, or hunting for Squirtie.
To catch a predator… with the help of Pokémon Go
And finally, a Greenfield Indiana man was apprehended while playing Pokémon Go with a 16-year-old boy in a park. The man, Randy Zuick, 42, happened to be a convicted sex offender and was prohibited by law from associating with minors. He was turned in by a parole officer.
So it looks like Pokémon Go can act as a crime-fighting tool as much as it can a conduit for otherwise intelligent people to fall of cliffs.