By Antony Scholefield, Medical Observer

 

Has any video game series been subject to as much scientific scrutiny as Pokémon?

A quick Pub Med search reveals 161 studies that reference the world’s highest- grossing game franchise.

The field was invigorated in 2016 with the release of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile app where the game’s avatars move based on the player’s real-world location.

But a recent article about Pokémon Go is a tragic tale.

In BMJ Case Reports, UK doctors describe a healthy young patient who fell on to a railway line while playing the game.

He had 7% full thickness burns involving his right anterior thigh and knee, left anterior thigh, right lateral elbow, chest and right mandible.

Due to the extensive tissue loss, doctors had to perform an above-knee amputation.

The incident prompted them to review the literature for Pokémon Go-related injuries.

They found a 2016 study that estimated Pokémon Go was responsible for 113,993 traffic accidents within just 10 days.

A more conservative study implicated it in 150,000 accidents in 148 days — including 256 deaths. That study estimated the economic cost of the injuries and deaths at $2.8 billion-$9.1 billion.

The UK authors also referred to a report where Pokémon Go had literally led players to walk into minefields in Bosnia.

But they stressed the health risks weren’t confined to Pokémon. Their concerns were about augmented reality games played on smartphones generally, as they seemed likely to improve in quality and thus become more popular.

“The impact of pedestrian mobile phone use is an important public health concern. This will become an increasing focus with the further development of augmented reality activities,” they concluded.

 

Antony Scholefield is a medical reporter with a special interest in technology and pharmacy.

 

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