The Pokémon Go mobile game that suddenly has teenagers and adults wandering the earth — camera-enabled phones in hand — has some hospitals concerned about just how far players might wander.
The game requires players to move about to find and collect Pokémon characters that randomly appear on their phone screens, then to go to parks, schools and other public locations that are designated as “gyms,” where the characters fight. Players can also visit “pokestops,” where they pick up free stuff to enhance their games.
While the game represents a small victory for public health advocates — better to have people moving around while playing smartphone games than vegging on their sofas — it apparently has led some players into hospitals. And at least one hospital is concerned that players are wandering into areas that are off-limits.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly issued the following notice to its staff: “It has been reported that some Pokémon characters are showing up in NCH secured areas and gamers are trying to get to the characters.”
In Minnesota, officials at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester have reacted as well. Apparently there are several Pokémon “gyms’’ surrounding its campus.
“Staff and security personnel at our facilities are being updated on potential patient privacy and security issues that could arise,” said Joe Dangor, a Mayo spokesman, noting that an intern found a character in his office.
At Regions Hospital in St. Paul, spokesman Vince Rivard said he hadn’t heard of the game becoming a problem yet. He did acknowledge driving his 15-year-old son and three friends around last weekend to collect characters.
“What’s wrong with me?” he exclaimed.
Curious to see whether hospitals are unusually good collection points, I conducted field research with my own 15-year-old — walking through the lobbies and cafeteria at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.
In 15 minutes, my son said he encountered 38 characters. He gasped as we stood staring through his phone camera at the yellow flowers in front of the emergency department entrance.
“Oh wow, I need this,” he exclaimed. “It’s a three evolved Spearow!”
No gym or stop was found at the hospital. Creepily enough, the nearest one was a mile up France Avenue. At a cemetery.