In under a week, Pokemon Go has rocketed to the top of the iPhone app store's charts, crashed servers due to download volumes, and sent Nintendo's stock price soaring. Now, the new smart phone app's popularity is prompting safety warnings.
"Parents need to be aware of what this truly is," said Jonathan Rajewski of the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.
The game layers cute cartoon monsters onto the real-world view from your phone's camera. Players explore streets, parks, and other spots hoping to "capture" the digital creatures and build their characters' strength.
Rajewski said since Pokemon Go sends players outside their homes, parents of young gamers should ask exactly where their kids are venturing, ensure they're not walking alone, and consider setting limits.
Rajewski also warned about the risks from distractions, and the need to stay alert.
"You have to be aware of your surroundings," he told necn. "If you're walking around the streets trying to catch a Pokemon with your phone, you're not looking at a curb, or a hole, or a car. So you have to be really safe when you're playing this game. And of course, never check the game while driving."
Police in Missouri said Sunday four teenagers used the game to lure players to a specific location and rob them. Police said the robbers were able to place a "beacon" at a location to draw in players, the Associated Press reported.
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Players necn met as they explored downtown Burlington looking for Pokemon characters on their phones explained a variety of qualities about the game that appeal to them.
"It gets you outside, it gets you exercise," said Pokemon Go player Dan McLam. "It's a perfect day out, so I thought I'd come out, go for a walk, and look for Pokemon."
"I think we all wish we could have Pokemon in real life," said app user Megan Hallowell, describing the "augmented reality" the game brings to smart phones. "You kind of get to catch them in your room or wherever you are. It's fun."
"My generation loves this game," added Champlain College student Matt Fortier. "All the college students around are playing it, and once school gets back in session, it's going to be even bigger."
Pokemon Go also sparked a marketing opportunity for the downtown Burlington bakery My Little Cupcake. The game designated the business as one place where players can find a digital critter and access tools to use in the world of the game.
The bakery then posted a message on Instagram urging Pokemon Go players to come check out their location.
"We had a few people this morning come in and buy cupcakes because they were here to catch Pokemon as well," said Steph Riggs, a manager at My Little Cupcake. "If business can tap into the network and the people who are already there using this, it's a great way to reach out to customers."
Several Pokemon Go players necn met Monday said they hope the game developers continue to roll out fresh characters and scenarios to keep the playing experience fresh.
Rajewski noted the game could use a significant amount of your phone's battery or data allotment.