Pokémon was the hottest game in the 90’s. In Pokemon, players capture monsters, train them, and pit them against opponent’s monsters. Pokemon’s popularity was due to its simplicity and social aspect- a player could link two handheld consoles together and battle his friends.
All subsequent Nintendo consoles had the same basic premise and popularity but none held the appeal of the original. Why would people purchase dedicated gaming consoles when their phone provides endless entertainment?
Finally, Pokémon joined the smartphone age with a free app called “Pokémon Go.” Available for iOS and Android devices, Pokémon Go requires GPS functionality and is wildly popular.
The game’s concept is unchanged – except now, the gamepad has been replaced by the player’s body. The digital avatar moves around the game world when you walk with your phone. Walking defines much of the game play: Pokémon can be found outside the house, and other game components incentivize activity. Players obtain supplies at “Pokestops,” by being within a few yards of registered businesses or landmarks. To battle with others, players must walk to “gyms,” usually located in public places.
Though the app promotes activity and outdoor play, there are concerns. There have been instances of distracted players wandering into traffic with grave consequences. Additionally, the franchise’s addictive history should encourage caution about the microtransactions embedded in the app.
Anything necessitating attention and mobility is a potential hazard. “Pokémon Go” is uniquely hazardous as it encourages exploration while under distraction; players can walk to unsafe areas in pursuit of rare creatures.
To be safe, encourage collective Pokémon exploration because two people will be more resistant to danger. Pokémon populate the world randomly; there’s no need to wander into unfamiliar territory. If a young child is is playing, establish a “collection route” that takes them by several “pokestops” and takes a known amount of time.
Remind kids about physical boundaries not as commonplace in the virtual world, like porches, fences and curbs.
There are two big cost worries with “Pokémon Go.”
1. Microtransactions: small fees charged for in-game items that otherwise come in limited supply. Though the most expensive item costs $5, lots of these purchases add up. To limit the purchasing power of a player. Link the account with a pre-paid debit or credit card
2. Wireless data usage: the app takes players away from home wifi locations, necessitating a constant stream of wireless data access. Monitor mobile data consumption, and have a plan to cut off data access to avoid coverage charges if that limit is approached.
“Pokémon Go” can be great, healthy fun. It can also be a source of trouble. Talking to players about these risks and ways to manage them can ensure that everyone has a great time.
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