You may well have noticed an even higher than normal number of people walking down the street glued to their phones. The reason is likely to be a wildly popular free game where you hunt small cartoon characters who appear on your smartphone screens as though in the real world. Yes, really.
For the uninitiated, the game Pokémon GO, makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices, to allow players to capture, battle, and train these virtual creatures, called Pokémon (that some of you may remember from the early 2000s). It’s certainly a welcome relief from a lot of the news going on in the world at the moment, but worried rail and metro operators are now having to communicate the dangers of passengers engaged in "monster hunting" ending up on the tracks and capturing a hospital bed rather than Omanyte, Weepinbell or Wigglytuff...
In response to this global phenomenon, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has produced a helpful guide to the items and Pokémon that can be found around its routes and stations. It has also set up a dedicated Pokémon GO Twitter account, @PokemonGOMetro helping riders find the characters on their network.
"Hey #PokemonGO players, we know you gotta catch 'em all, but stay behind that yellow line when in the subway," the MTA in New York tweeted and have added posters on the network featuring an image of a Pokémon on the subway tracks, with a reminder of the dangers of encroaching on the train tracks.
In the UK staff in the Midlands were puzzled by a sudden influx of teenagers glued to their phones congregating a tram stop – turns out it’s a Pokémon Gym (a favourite spot for them to congregate, apparently).
Ben Ackroyd, Midland Metro director, said, “We did wonder why people were turning up, staring intently at their phones for a bit, then going away. But then someone explained about the new Pokémon Go game. Working in public transport, we’re used to groups of trainspotters and tramspotters collecting numbers, but this is a new one for us!”
Whilst in Canada, a video trying to flag the potential perils of Pokémon GO drew scorn from the Toronto Transit Commission for its shot featuring a young man walking alongside the tracks at Union Station. The humorous video, depicts the precarious — if perhaps exaggerated — situations that players might encounter when oblivious to everything but the game.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross was reported as stating the the video was an "incredibly dangerous stunt" that could have resulted in the actor's death. He added that the TTC was not asked for permission to shoot the video. "The disregard for their own safety and convenience of others is of great concern to us," Ross said of the video creators. Besides an oncoming train, 600 volts of electricity run through the third rail, he added.
And even in Russia, the passengers have been warned not to play the game by warning of accidents with "tragic consequences” for distracted gamers.
“In response to the mass spread of video games, including those using GPS, Russian Railways would like to remind passengers that train stations, platforms and rail crossings are dangerous places,” the statement said in the Moscow Times. “Distractions caused by a [mobile phone] screen could lead people being less alert.”
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