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Even a free, fun game has its price.
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.
People driving while also trying to catch 'em all in Pokemon Go "gave rise to a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes, injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of PokéStops." https://t.co/CX3698q2vA
— Axios (@axios) November 26, 2017
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
Chris Tognotti is a frequent contributor for the Daily Dot. He’s a news and current events writer based out of Berkeley, California, and a co-host of the podcast Now We Know. While he specializes in domestic politics and opinion writing, he’s also savvy on sports, video games, and film.