Pokmon Go is a smash hit success, with the game’s popularity sparking headlines around the world.
But not all of those headlines have been positive – and some media reports have zeroed in on the unintended consequences of the app’s lure mechanic.
Pokmon Go’s lure feature works, as you might expect, by attracting critters around your local area.
You can pay for lures yourself with in-game cash or via Pokmon Go’s microtransactions. Alternatively, you can hang around while someone else nearby does the same. The Pokmon that spawn around the lure are visible to all players.
The in-game Lure Module attracts Pokmon to a Pokstop location for 30 minutes. This also attracts other people to the area to benefit from the effect.
It’s easy to see why Pokmon Go works this way – it’s designed to be played by lots of people in the same area simultaneously, all reacting, chasing and catching the same monsters.
This has brought many players together, and there are heart-warming stories of people meeting each other to go on adventures. People have found dates, made friends and more.
But some players have also seen a darker side to their use. Lures attract players – all with expensive smartphones – off the beaten track.
Four teenage robbers were arrested last night in Missouri after using Pokmon Go to “anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims”, police sergeant Bill Stringer said (as reported by The Guardian).
The felons were all aged between 16-18 and were in possession of a handgun.
“If you use this app (or other similar type apps) or have children that do we ask you to please use caution when alerting strangers of your future location,” Stringer added.
Separately, a thread being passed round Twitter this morning, posted by a concerned Boston nanny, lays out the obvious issues around child safety.
Naturally, you might argue, children playing the app should be supervised while playing outside to the same level of any other activity. But in an age where eight-year-olds have smartphones and know more about how to use them than some of their parents, it remains to be seen how clued up guardians will be.
Pokmon Go does contain a warning that players should always remain aware of their surroundings, no matter what Pokmon appear on their screen. But it has already become clear that playing the game has lead to some unexpected situations – such as the discovery of a dead body by a teenager in Wyoming, or the unconfirmed story of a YouTuber in Colorado witnessing a murder.
Developer Niantic has paused Pokmon Go’s UK release while it irons out server issues due to high demand. But plenty are already using the app here via a trick to get Pokmon Go early on Android phones.
It’s difficult to see Pokmon Go’s lure mechanic changing in the short-term, although one possibility would be to make its effect applicable to the user only, in order to nullify any potential safety issues.