A Canadian newsreader introduces a segment about the ‘dangers’ of Pokemon Go. A Pokemon fan on the hunt around Sydney. Photo: Peter Rae
Why is everyone going bonkers for Pokemon Go?Pokemon Go’s unexpected side-effects
Be afraid! Our streets are brimming with distracted drivers, people “walking into each other” and scenes of “untold carnage”.
Indeed, “there are now claims” the massively popular Pokemon Go app could be used by paedophiles to capture children. Who’s making these claims? “One woman … known as Robin”, says The Daily Mail, which reported her fears under the headline: “Is this the world’s most dangerous game?”
A week ago, everything was normal. Then Pokemon Go – in which users roam literal streets to catch virtual characters – was released. It’s already poised to claim more users than Twitter.
Of course, media around the world responded like we do to any new craze: by losing our minds.
Photos of Pokemon-related injuries are being splashed across evening news bulletins. That woman who stumbled across a dead body while searching for Pokestop became famous, for some reason. Inevitably, we began fretting about paedophiles.
Look. I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate concerns, or that we shouldn’t discuss them.
But does “absolute carnage” really include a guy falling off his skateboard, and a woman bruising her shin?
Every day, thousands of people hurt themselves going for walk, or a jog, or playing tennis. Simply stepping outside your front door is a risk: you could get assaulted, or run over, or catch an infectious disease.
Staying at home isn’t that safe, either.
According to the most recent Statistical Abstract of the United States – discontinued in 2012, which is a crying shame – 81,000 people sustained injuries involving a drinking glass. In a single year. How do they know? Because all required a trip to the emergency department.
Chainsaws prompted just 26,000 hospitalisations, while a whopping 169,000 Americans were seriously injured by their footwear.
This list is full of surprises. (How I wish I could find an Australian equivalent.)
Merely 33,000 sought treatment for hammer-related injuries, while 86,000 startled individuals were wounded by their toilets.
Fellow journalists: we’re missing the real stories!
You might expect scissors to be a crowded category (29,000). Yet bigger threats to safety include refrigerators (40,000) and daywear (60,000).
Personally, I could find time for any of the 175,000 souls who summoned an ambulance after failing to sit on their sofa correctly. Likewise, if you’re one of the 53,000 harmed by your “dancing equipment”, I’m all ears.
But just as I began to feel comfortably smug, I recalled my own sheepish trips to the doctor. Over the years, I’ve been felled while making a bowl of porridge. I’ve opened a vein while changing the photocopier toner. I’ve even come to grief while brushing my teeth.
The point is, there is danger everywhere. We’re accustomed to most of it, so it’s unremarkable. It’s novel danger that frightens us – and captures the headlines.
Imagine if someone proposed a new system of mass transport – but it will kill 1200 Australians annually, and leave many more with disabilities or permanent pain.
Instinctively, we’d brand it “dangerous” and demand it be banned. But that’s the cost of cars. We’re blase about it, though, because we’ve always had motor vehicles in our lifetimes.
We see studies that show talking on a hands-free phone can be as dangerous as drink-driving – and we carry on doing it. Then we worry about Pokemon Go, because news reports tell us it’s dangerous.
Can the app be made safer? Yes. There’s a sensible discussion to be had here, but let’s dial it down several notches before we start.
Is it “the world’s most dangerous game”? Pfft.
Whenever thousands of people leave the house en masse – whether for Pokemon Go or a charity run – some will fall over and get hurt. Some might get hit by a car. Nearly all will reap the benefits of physical movement.
Let’s recognise that we can make the world safer – but we can’t make it safe. And that’s okay.
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