Aspiring Pokémon Go trainers urged to stay aware of surroundings - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Aspiring Pokémon Go trainers urged to stay aware of surroundings

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

You've likely heard about the latest video game craze sweeping the country. It's a smartphone app called "Pokémon Go."

In case you're having déjà vu, we're talking about the same Pokémon brand that surged in popularity in the 1990s. But the new app released last week now has police reminding you and your kids to be smart while playing the game.

It’s now the most downloaded app in both the Android and iTunes app stores, with millions of users now playing the game. There was even a special event at the Chromatic Dragon in Savannah for local users.

"Since the game came out, we've seen a huge influx of people wanting to come here and experience the game,” said Ashlee Perkins, vice president of the Chromatic Dragon & Guild Hall.

The pub is a popular gathering spot for gamers year-round, but this latest craze has people gathering all over the place because it is location based.

The augmented-reality game uses your smartphone camera to superimpose the cartoon creatures on the real world around you. It's essentially a scavenger hunt that requires you to physically walk to different landmarks around your neighborhood in order to collect achievements and compete with others.

"Yesterday I went to a local park, and I ran into a good 20 or 30 people playing,” said Matthew Wagner, Pokémon Go player.

Wagner, 15, was playing the game at Forsyth Park. In the game, the iconic fountain is a "gym" where players can gather and compete.

"I grew up with Pokémon, so it's just kind of big nostalgia,” Wagner said.

But people wandering around town absorbed in their smartphones raises a red flag for law enforcement.

"You do make yourself a target if you are unaware of your surroundings and you're not noticing things. People will think, 'well, they're not going to notice me walking up behind them,’” said Cpl. Dana Purvis, SCMPD.

The game does remind you to be alert and aware of your surroundings every time you open up the app, but there has already been at least one instance in Missouri of suspects using a feature in the game to lure others to a secluded spot before robbing them at gunpoint.

Police say to play the game with others, encourage your children to stay within the neighborhood where you can supervise them, and to use common sense.

"Don't go into an environment that you're unfamiliar with. Stay where you are familiar with, and try to play the game during the day time, and not late at night where some places are not well lit,” said Cpl. Purvis.

WTOC spoke with another group of players in Chippewa Square Monday who said the game tries to not to encourage night-time playing by not having as many items available to collect during late hours. But regardless of the time of day, the key here is to be smart and to remind your kids to do the same.

SCMPD offered these tips for Pokémon Go users:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times – look up from your smart phone
  • Don’t venture into areas you are not familiar with
  • For parents, set limits on where your children can hunt for Pokémon
  • Remind kids not to talk to strangers and to use the buddy system
  • Do not trespass on private property, no matter how tempting the Pokémon may be
  • Never hunt for Pokémon while driving – distracted driving is not only illegal, but also dangerous

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