We all know the feeling of becoming so engrossed in a game that the rest of reality tends to melt away. We've all had that one game whose gameplay or story has drawn us in so closely that we simply can't look away. This is generally considered the mark of a great game, but there's one platform on which this sort of engrossing gameplay can be deadly. I'm talking about mobile games. I know, hard to believe that there's a single mobile game out there that can be so good that we can't rip our eyes away from it. But there is in fact one with that effect on people: Pokemon Go. One job I held had to hold a meeting about Pokemon Go usage in the office. People were literally getting so caught up in the game that they were doing so during work hours in plain view of the higher-ups.
They clearly weren't the only ones, as many other Pokemon Go addicts took to the world and lost themselves in the game. Some even suffered deadly consequences for it. There were tons of stories at Pokemon Go's advent of users falling off cliffs or being struck by vehicles. The stories were similar, but the causes were all the same; players were getting so caught up in Pokemon Go that they were getting injured or dying. The largest of this problem has been players who use Pokemon Go while driving in their cars. I'm sure all of us have responded to text messages or glanced at emails while driving. It's not recommended and is often illegal depending on where you are. In some cases, it can even be fatal.
One study done by some economists at Purdue University, John J. McConnell and Mara Faccio, looked at a county in Indiana, United States. In Tippecanoe County, 286 more car crashes occurred within 148 days of Pokemon Go's release than did the previous year. 134 of those car accidents happened near PokeStops, further lending credence to the theory that Pokemon Go caused more traffic accidents. During this period of study, two lives were lost due to car crashes in Tippecanoe County, and around $5.2 million and $25.5 million in damages occurred as a result of accidents.
The loss of life can hardly be compared to a monetary value, but it's estimated that between $2 billion and $7.3 billion was lost in damages during the first 148 days of Pokemon Go in the entire United States. There are other instances of Pokemon Go killing people, like in Japan when a 39 year old man hit two elderly women. One died, and the other was injured to the point of needing medical treatment at a hospital. In this accident, the driver admitted that he was playing Pokemon Go. Another accident involves a Pokemon Go player who hit a police car while playing.
The cases for not playing Pokemon Go behind the wheel are varied, and many. There's even a warning within the game that says you should not be playing it while driving. There's another message that pops up when you're traveling above a certain speed that warns you should not play while driving. The only way to continue playing after receiving that message is to tell the game that you are a passenger.
Clearly, Pokemon Go developer Niantic has done everything possible from there end to keep people from playing Pokemon Go while driving. The only other step they could take is putting temporary suspensions on play when traveling above a certain speed (but that leaves bored passengers left out). Thus other potential fixes in the real world come into play. A Canadian Pokemon Go player once paid a $368 fine for playing the game while driving. California was even considering putting a law in place that would make Pokemon Go play while driving illegal.
These are all certainly good steps to take in making Pokemon Go related accidents and deaths a thing of the past, but shouldn't it come down to us as the users? Mobile games like Pokemon Go are only going to get better and more popular as time goes on. As the games we carry with us on our phones get more and more engrossing we're going to have to set ourselves parameters for playing them.
Daily tasks that we should be focusing all our attention on, like driving or working, shouldn't be the place for mobile games. Just like we shouldn't text our friends, or post on Reddit during those times, we also shouldn't be playing games. Our willpower as gamers needs to kick in. If there's a rather enticing mobile game that we want to play, it should wait until lunchtime, or after work hours. It should wait until our cars are firmly parked near our residences, rather than on the freeway. It's up to us to make mobile games about the games again, and not about the senseless deaths that they can cause. Do you agree?