Gaming on the Go – a close look at Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go is already being hailed as the “game of the summer”, with players of all ages getting out and about searching for “Pokémon”, creatures of all shapes and sizes, on their mobile phones.
Virtual reality meets the real world
It is part of an emerging generation of “augmented reality” apps, which allow players to look through the camera on their phone and see a game superimposed onto the world around them. In the case of Pokémon Go, the game overlays Pokémon over real locations for gamers to capture, collect, evolve and fight.
What are the risks?
As with any piece of social technology there are risks. However, I do not feel Pokémon Go introduces many new risks that we do not see in technologies such as social media.
Certainly given the outdoor nature of the game, there is a risk you might not be looking where you are going! There have already been stories of people wandering into traffic and getting lost. However, there is little difference between this and those engrossed in the messages on their mobiles while walking down the street.
There are other, potentially more concerning, aspects of the game that do present risk for children. One of the fundamental aspects of gameplay is to meet with others, to interact with them, to “battle” them and to share information of Pokémon locations, which raises concerns around strangers approaching young people with offers of sharing locations of Pokémon, and similar.
Pokestops, places where Pokemon can be found, and Gyms, where trainers can battle each other, are real world locations and therefore there is a risk that those wishing to meet children might lurk around these locations. However, these are generally very public places and, given the number of players of the game, busy.
What you can do to keep kids safe
Mitigating against such risks falls back on common sense more than technical knowhow. One would hope we would not be happy with one of our children running off on their own all over a town, playing near main roads, or being free to speak to whomever they wish without parental supervision. There is nothing technological in the game that raises risk beyond what we might normally see around “stranger danger”, and setting boundaries around where children can play.
Additional costs of game
Another aspect of the game that can present some challenges is the potential for expensive in-app purchases. Players can purchase in game currency to buy items that improve their prospects in the game. This can be managed effectively by changing the settings to not allowed in game purchases, as, without such measures, it is possible to make some fairly sizable purchases (the most expensive single purchase is £79.99 for a considerable amount of
Play together to make the most of the app
Nevertheless, what is the most important thing to remember is that the game is great fun and of course children and young people want to play it. Being aware of the potential pitfalls helps mitigate the potential harm that might arise but in essence the game presents little new in terms of risk to young people. And it also presents a great opportunity to have a conversation within families about the game.
For younger children it is an opportunity to play together and to incorporate playing the game into family outings. But even for older children, who would probably not want to be seen out looking for Pokémon with their mum, showing an interest in what they are doing and talking about how they play the game is going to result a far stronger understanding of the game.