Pokémon Go – carefully!

The game turns city streets into a virtual scavenger hunt where players chase virtual Pokémon monsters that appear on their phone’s video screen.

The game uses GPS technology and layers of gameplay on to the real world, with users’ phones vibrating whenever a Pokémon is near.

Since its release, the app has been downloaded by millions of people worldwide, and communal games – attracting thousands of already addicted players – have been held in major cities across Australia and the world.

But although a warning appears in the game’s loading screen advising players to pay attention to their changing surrounds, anecdotal evidence suggests it is easy for players to forget about real-world risks once the game gets under way.

Multiple players have reported broken bones, slips and falls or have bumped into things while wandering around fixated on the virtual critters they are chasing. Some people have even been caught playing the game whilst driving a car!

While the seriousness of injuries that have so far been sustained varies, it is important for players to remember community standards of reasonable behaviour as they play. Taking reasonable care for our own safety is something we must all do when we’re in public. And it would not be considered reasonable for a person to walk down the street and not watch where they are going. It is certainly not reasonable to play a video game whilst driving.

General public liability principles apply in relation for any injuries sustained in public places. But defendants could argue contributory negligence if they could prove that the person injured was not looking where they were going when the injury occurred.

Nintendo, the Japanese creators of the game, claim it is being played on average 43 minutes every day. While its popularity is expected to continue rising, it is vital for players to remember that the associated safety consequences could be a lot more serious than missing a few virtual monsters so they should consider recruiting a buddy to look out for real hazards along the way.

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Dimi Ioannou

Maurice Blackburn Melbourne
Dimi Ioannou is a Principal Lawyer and Practice Group Leader at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in charge of the firm’s Public and Product Liability team in Melbourne. Dimi is an accredited specialist in personal injury law. Dimi works in the area of public liability and ...

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