pokemon go

Screengrab via Pokémon GO /YouTube

Pokémon Go has a heavy cost to health and safety, according to study

Even a free, fun game has its price.


Chris Tognotti

Internet Culture

Published Nov 26, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 10:00 am CDT

A new study from a pair of economists claims that the Pokémon Go phenomenon which erupted in the summer of 2016 came at a heavy price, both in terms of property damage and even human lives. The paper by Purdue University’s Mara Faccio and John McConnell, titled “Death by Pokémon Go,” examined detailed police reports from Tippecanoe County (Indiana) in the 148 days immediately following the game’s release to determine how many additional car accidents, injuries, damages, and deaths occurred as a result of the popular smartphone game.

What it found was pretty striking. Including two lives Faccio and McConnell claim were lost as a result of unsafe use of the app, the cost in dollars in Tippicanoe County landed somewhere between $5.2 million and $25.2 million. This was caused in large part by an observable jump in traffic accidents after the game’s release, nearly half of which the pair blame on the hit mobile game.

Extrapolating these figures nationwide, according to the paper, would mean that Pokémon Go cost the U.S. billions of dollars over that same 148-day period, somewhere between $2 billion and $7.3 billion. That’s to say nothing of the human cost, which would work out to 256 additional deaths nationwide. Whether the Tippecanoe results actually accurately map over onto all the other counties in the country, however, can’t be conclusively said. While it might not be totally clear what this actually means for the country at large, it’s a compelling snapshot of the game’s alleged impact on at least one county.

Needless to say, people shouldn’t be playing Pokémon Go while driving. The game explicitly instructs not to do so and disables some features if the phone is moving at too high a speed. When Pokémon Go was first released, it instantly caught wildfire, trending on social media and breaking download records. The frenzy seemed to die down as the year came to an end, although it’s still a popular and successful smartphone game with millions of daily players.

H/T the Verge

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 26, 2017, 1:29 pm CST