Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the wildly popular game Pokémon Go. It uses the smart phone’s GPS and camera to create an augmented reality game that is akin to a virtual scavenger hunt. Perhaps you’ve seen individuals or groups of people walking around your neighborhood searching for Pokémon characters. The game has quickly gone from an overnight success to a true phenomenon. While you may have zero interest in playing this or any other video game, as a healthcare professional, there are a few things you should know.
First, the Good News
Pokémon Go is actually contributing to better health of many of our youth. Instead of sitting on the couch playing video games, people are walking, riding bikes, and generally being encouraged to be more active simply by playing the game. Many players of the game have also reported improved mental health. While it is too soon to measure the impact, encouraging more physical activity is definitely a plus.
Every day there are media reports of injuries that occur while people are playing the game, primarily as a result of gamers not paying enough attention to their surroundings, resulting in sprains, broken bones, or worse. Emergency room visits are rising as a result of distracted game play, even distracted driving. Unscrupulous predators are also using the game to lure gamers to locations in order to rob them or worse. A large dose of common sense should be able to prevent much of these incidents.
The game encourages participants to travel to designated locations called Gyms or PokéStops. Many of these locations are historical landmarks, churches, schools, stores, and other public places. The problem for healthcare professionals is that many hospitals are designated as PokéStops, resulting in an unwanted increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic in and around the facility. Unintended consequences include impeding ambulance traffic, added burdens on staff, and overall reduction of physical security, among others. If this situation is a problem at your medical facility, you can contact the game developer to have your location removed from the game.
Whether you play Pokémon Go or not, get out and enjoy your surroundings and be safe!