Play Pokémon Go safely and responsibly. That is the refrain that we have heard and will keep hearing because immersed and excited gamers think of little else while gaming.
A good game immerses and excites because it reaches into the parts of our brains that reward and pleasure.
The very simple and logical message to be safe and responsible is easy to follow while not gaming. It just as easily flies out the window while gaming because playing reactivates our child-like wonder and responses.
So what concrete action might we take to prevent accidents, injuries, or worse?
Pokémon Go is a mobile, location-aware game. Those are its core technical affordances. It also has an optional social affordance: You can play alone or with others.
Unless a solo player is very disciplined or self-aware, the player is likely to be immersed in the Pokémon Go pool. Watch any console, PC, or Pokémon Go gamer in the state of flow and you might recognise that same look and body language.
The in-person social aspect is often overlooked in Pokémon Go. By social I do not mean a group of people dashing across a road with no regard for safety. A mob is not that social.
I am referring to working together in groups and assigning one person to be like the designated driver on drinking night. However, this does not mean that the person cannot play. This person has a radar and warning role.
Alternatively, do what this community in Clementi did to take advantage of the interest in the game. It is not about safety in numbers. It is about learning with and from others.
I play Pokémon Go with my son. I remind him to look up when we are moving between Poké stops or to move to the side or somewhere safe when we are throwing Poké balls.
We also discuss options and strategies. He knows a lot more about the Pokémon world than I do thanks to other Pokémon games and YouTube videos. I read Pokémon Go articles on trends, tips, and education. We complement each other with our knowledge bases and wisdom pools.
From him I learnt that I should collect free Poké coins (defender bonus) when I assign a Pokémon to a gym. From me my son learnt that we should plan walking routes to maximise Poké stops.
Our gaming sessions are not just times to talk and bond. They are also opportunities for us to model behaviours for each other.
I refrain from saying “play Pokémon Go safely and responsibly”. The game itself is not dangerous; some human behaviours are. The behaviours are a natural result of our human programming.
The social element of Pokémon Go is an important way of rising above that instinct to play without consequence. In doing so, we might discover the value of interacting with the game, the environment, and with each other.