Pokemon GO has been released for approximately three weeks and has spread quickly than the most virulent computer virus. The game is an augmented reality treasure hunt: players navigate around a map of the real world in the search for Pokémon. When they are close to these beasts, the smartphone fires up the camera and the player must capture the Pokémon monster by flicking Pokeballs at the critter. Captured monsters may be trained in a Pokemon Gym and players can make stops at Pokestops to gain features and benefits. The game sounds simple but has proven to be remarkably addictive: it's still early days, but so far the number of active players quickly surpassed the number of regular Twitter users. It remains to be seen how these regular player numbers settle down in the medium to longer term. In the meantime, the game has certainly captured the headlines and we have seen many stories around the players and the service. Some players have disregarded the Pokemon GO splashscreen when one launches the application, which reminds people to pay attention to their surroundings. We've seen reports of criminals deliberately camping out at Pokestops to target unaware players and in Orlando, two teenagers were confronted by a man with a sidearm believing that they had robbed him.
However, things have taken a more sinister turn in Bosnia, formerly Yugoslavia. The region suffered from a devastating conflict between 1992 – 1995. Following the war, an estimated 2.3% of the territory could still have unexploded landmines and similar devices and over half a million people live close to areas believed to contain these dangerous explosives. These areas are signposted to warn people of the dangers but we have today seen a report in British newspaper, The Guardian, detailing how Bosnian authorities are reminding Pokemon GO players to avoid these areas when playing the game. Landmines are a particularly nasty anti-personnel weapon as extracting a seriously injured victim from a minefield is dangerous and difficult. The Bosnian organisation, NGO Posavina Bez Mina, warned players on its Facebook page that it had received reports of Pokemon GO players going into known dangerous or unknown areas in search of a Pokémon to capture.
We would hope that the NGO Posavina Bez Mina is contacting the developer in order to remove areas of the map that contain, or are believed to contain, landmines in order to discourage Pokémon GO players from venturing into these parts. Since 1995, landmines are believed to have killed around six hundred people and injured almost twice as many and we would hope there are no Pokemon GO-related casualties.