Want to ‘catch them all?’ Mobile gaming safety tips to keep in mind

Amy Perry, Production/News Assistant Editor
USAG Fort Lee

In the last week, a new augmented reality game for smartphones has flooded social media streams – from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. Pokémon Go is the talk of the town.

The free game – released July 9 – reportedly has more daily users than Twitter. It involves hunting for the little creatures while walking or driving.

In Pokemon Go, players can visit real-world locations to fight other creatures, like this gym located at Memorial Chapel. At least four gyms are located on Fort Lee, and the community is reminded to be careful of using their phones when it appears like they are taking photos of restricted locations. Photo by USAG Fort Lee.

In Pokemon Go, players can visit real-world locations to fight other creatures, like this gym located at Memorial Chapel. At least four gyms are located on Fort Lee, and the community is reminded to be careful of using their phones when it appears like they are taking photos of restricted locations. Photo by USAG Fort Lee.

Even on Fort Lee, hunters can find new pets, Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms to progress in their game. Once the application is downloaded for an Android or Apple product, users will see various points of interest to collect items or engage in battles for experience and ownership of a gym.

However, anyone playing this game – or any game that sends them wandering around – should be aware of where they are going and what they are trying to do.

“Playing these types of games can pose a serious safety concern if people aren’t paying attention to their surroundings,” said Maj. Joe Tull, Post Provost Marshal. “Also, it’s against Fort Lee policy to use a phone while driving, even if you’re not talking on it. You can get ticketed for that.”

Additionally, walking around with a phone in the air can appear like someone is taking photographs on the installation, Tull said. Some locations here – like those that support infrastructure, high-risk target locations, key command posts and headquarters buildings, arms and ammunition storage areas, medical facilities, or restricted sites that includes training areas or communications equipment – are off-limits for photography and require pre-authorization for anyone who wants to take a photo.

However, unofficial or personal photography is authorized for residents, personnel and other DOD-identification cardholders at recreational activities and facilities, family housing areas, military billets, official military functions, and events open to the general public.

“If you’re walking around and it seems like you’re taking photos, you may be reported to PMO and an officer may ask for your phone to see if any photos have been taken,” Tull said. “We do get calls when people are seen taking photos of training or restricted areas.”

Tull also said community members should be aware of their actions while playing these games.

“If you’re walking behind the commissary, main exchange or one of the banks, for example, that could look suspicious because people aren’t expected in those areas,” he said. “You may get stopped and questioned in these instances.”

Players should avoid venturing into off-limits areas.

Safety Tips:

– Always remember to watch where you are going and look up from your screen when you are playing Pokémon Go or any other augmented reality game. The real world can be very dangerous if you aren’t paying attention.

– Pokémon Go was designed to bring people together in the real world as they search for Pokémon in common areas called gyms and pokestops, but remember you may not know every person you encounter.  Be alert and use good judgment when interacting with people you don’t know.  If someone seems up to no good, don’t hesitate to leave the area or call the police.

– Parents should consider setting limits for where kids can go while playing the game without adult supervision.

– Play in groups of people you know. Groups can do a better job of monitoring the surroundings and are a less appealing targets for unscrupulous people.

– Be extra cautious if playing at night and wear reflective clothing.

– Don’t wander into buildings or try to access other places where players might not be welcome.  Police stations, churches, military installations and even private home owners have had to send unwanted Pokémon Go players away.

Game Tips:

Pokéballs are not endless – practice your aim and try not to lose your ability to capture more Pokémon.

Need more Pokéballs? Visit Pokéstops and click on the icon when it turns into a bullseye. Spin the bullseye and you’ll get a variety of items, including Pokéballs, revive potions, incense and experience.

Capturing a Pokémon more than once gives you items to upgrade the creature with – vital if you want to take on a gym held by an opposing team.

Got an egg and you’re not sure what to do? Click on the Pokéball in the bottom center, then on the Pokémon icon. Click out the eggs portion at the top to see what eggs you have waiting to hatch. Click on one to incubate it, and remember, you have to walk to unlock them – just don’t stare at your phone while doing it!