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Boy Killed By Pokémon GO Player

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In my previous post I talked about a Japanese Pokémon GO
player’s peculiar encounter with a member of the Yakuza. Today I’ll also be
talking about a Pokemon GO related incident, except this time it’s a much
sadder story.

Just about 3 weeks ago, on October 26th a truck driver in Aichi prefecture
(central Japan) was playing Pokemon GO while driving. At the same time Keita
Noritake, a 4th grade boy, was walking home from school. As the 4th grader was
crossing the street the truck driver, who was too busy trying to catch Pokemon
failed to notice the young boy and hit him. Two hours later the 9-year old boy
was dead. When questioned by police, the truck driver admitted that he had been
playing Pokemon GO while driving.

In recent weeks there have been many other stories about
people playing Pokemon GO while driving. Just on November 10th a story broke
about a Kyoto bus driver playing Pokemon GO while on the job. The 52-year old
bus driver was found out after a person in an oncoming car noticed the driver
had failed to use a signal when turning and called the bus company to report
this. The company then reviewed the on board video recordings and saw that the
driver had been playing Pokemon GO even while passengers were on board. This is
actually the second case of a bus driver playing Pokemon GO while on the job.
Thankfully, no one was actually injured in either case. However, all this has
raised major concerns about Pokemon GO. Many people have been calling for
either harsher punishments for people that play games like this while driving
or for Niantic, the developer of Pokemon GO, to make it so people cannot play
when moving above a certain speed. Currently, it is still possible to play
Pokemon GO while driving but various notifications and disclaimers are present
in the game that warn players against playing the game while driving. Of course,
players can still choose to ignore these warnings and play at any time. Obviously,
these warnings are not much consolation for people afraid this kind of thing
might happen again and so this has caused people to demand action from Niantic.
In response Niantic released this statement.

“We are still looking into the details of the incident. We will take any
necessary steps following the completion of an investigation.”

I don’t know what the solution to this problem is. Yes, Pokemon GO’s popularity
will decline in Japan, just like in the US, but eventually another game like
Pokemon GO will be released and this will be a problem all over again. So
perhaps something should be done. The death of this 9-year old boy is a tragedy
and it would not have happened had the truck driver been paying attention.
However, I also think that Niantic is not at fault. Despite that, should
Niantic do something? Yes, perhaps they should. Even if it is just to cover
their asses and keep bad publicity to a minimum. This problem reminds me of the
whole video game ratings thing in the 90’s. Rather than having the government
step in and regulate things, the video game companies offered to set up a video
game ratings system. Maybe Niantic should learn from that whole fiasco and
self-regulate in order to avoid forced regulation from the government. Anyway, as
with many of these types of issues this won’t get resolved overnight. If
anything new comes out of this, be it legislation or self-regulation I’ll be
sure to post about it.

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