...catching ’em all
Nintendo’s much-loved Pokémon series has well and truly established itself in the smartphone era, with virtual reality game Pokémon Go becoming the newest must have mobile app.
With the game requiring players to venture into the real-world to progress, there have been a number of reports of accidents being caused by players being too engrossed in their game and not focussing on their surroundings.
Taking a look at the legal implications of such accidents, Lisa Wright – Senior Associate at Simpson Millar – explains how to stay safe while hunting for the fictional creatures in your local area.
Niantic, Inc. – the software company that developed Pokémon Go – have experience in creating so called ‘augmented reality’ games, as previous title Ingress also required players to hit the streets in order to play a smartphone game.
The trend towards augmented reality – which sees real-world environments being augmented via the use of technology (usually a smartphone or tablet) – has been picking up pace in recent years.
Pokémon Go is the first time that such technology has been adopted on such a large scale and with an estimated 75 million downloads the title’s popularity is setting new milestones.
But the combination of a large number of players and augmented reality – which causes players to focus on their smartphones while in public – could be a recipe for disaster.
Establishing liability for accidents
Police forces around the UK have been vocal in responding to the game’s popularity, issuing safety warnings to players and establishing the letter of the law relating to using a device while driving.
Responding to reports of the game causing accidents, Niantic have released an update that issues a variety of warnings when the game is opened, including to be aware of surroundings and not to play the game while driving.
Despite this, players are likely to continue focussing on their phones while their attention should be elsewhere, which will continue to cause accidents.
Commenting on the dangers of games such as Pokémon Go, Lisa Wright says:
“Accidents being caused by people looking at their smartphones instead of focussing on their surroundings are not a new phenomenon. As usage of mobile devices has skyrocketed, there has been an increase in the number of accidents caused by people not looking where they are going.”
“Pokémon Go has taken this to a new level, and while people are not likely to focus on apps like Facebook while they are walking around in public, this is actually a requirement in Pokémon Go.”
“It is easy to establish liability for accidents that occur because somebody is looking at their phone instead of focussing on their surroundings; however this is not likely to make the reality of an accident any easier to accept for those involved.”
“While the game is enjoyable and it has spawned a new culture of Pokémon hunters around the world, it is important that players heed the various warnings that have been published.”
“Aside from suffering a serious injury themselves, players may also find that they could injure others, which could cause them to evolve from an innocent Pokémon trainer to a defendant in a compensation claim.”
“Of course the most important aspect in this debate is public safety and while it is commendable that the developers have taken steps to introduce safety warnings, they will surmount to nothing if they are not acknowledged by players.”
“In particular it is road users, whether these are behind the wheel or crossing the road as pedestrians, who are in danger from apps like Pokémon Go. Drivers may not anticipate a pedestrian, who is unaware of their surroundings, suddenly stepping into the road.”
“Parents should be extra vigilant with their children beside the road and should alert their children to the dangers of apps like Pokémon Go, which demands a user’s attention.”
Written by Lisa Wright
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