Questions raised in ambush killing of Pokemon Go player

There was another tragic Pokemon Go story this week, when 20 year old Calvin Riley was shot in the back and killed in Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco. According to witness accounts, Riley and a friend were absorbed in playing the game while walking in the park when multiple assailants came up behind them with no warning, previous interaction or any signal of intent and basically assassinated the young man. There have been no arrests in the murder so far.

As horrible as this story is, it’s not the only incident of people either dying, being injured, or running into less serious (and occasionally humorous) complications involving the massively popular game. But this incident in particular has our colleague Bob Owens at Bearing Arms issuing a warning to all of you players who gotta catch ’em all.

There was no apparent motive for the killing at all. The murderer seemingly just wanted to murder someone, and people with their faces buried in their smart phones playing games or texting, oblivious to the world, are very easy targets.

Maintaining 100% situational awareness at all times is an impossibility, but being a “smart phone zombie” while out in public is entirely optional…

If Calvin Riley was chosen to be killed truly at random by a thrill killer, odds are that he was targeted because he appeared to be an easy person to kill.

Keep your head up and be aware of your surrounding, folks.

There’s nothing in Bob’s specific cautions which I disagree with, but it does play into the larger theme which has been emerging. That narrative holds that there’s something inherently bad – or at least dangerous – about Pokemon Go. When placed in that meta context I have to disagree. First of all, when discussing the murder of Calvin Riley, there is so much unknown about the specifics of the crime that it’s not unreasonable to leave Pokemon Go out of the equation entirely… or at least almost entirely. Yes, you should always be aware of your surroundings as much as possible and avoid placing yourself in harm’s way. That’s a given. But that really applies to anything you might be doing, be it tinkering with your phone, listening to music or simply daydreaming as you stroll along oblivious to your surroundings.

Further, laying the blame for anything at the foot of this game (which Bob isn’t doing, to be clear) is misguided. There are people being killed or injured around the country playing this game, with some of them being struck by cars as they wander into the street while trying to capture a Charmander. (Yes… I had to look up Charmander on Google.)

Look, I don’t want to come off as too much of a cold-hearted SOB here, but let’s be honest. If you’re the type of person who can be that easily distracted, it’s not the fault of Pokemon Go that you’re dead. You were most likely going to wind up in a hospital bed or the morgue sooner or later because Darwin is rather strict about these things. If you’re that dumb, your survival chances weren’t that great to begin with. This is not a phenomenon of dangerous games we’re experiencing. It’s the effect of a media spotlight being trained on people who weren’t very good at survival to begin with. In other circumstances they probably would have wound up falling off a bridge or sticking their fingers in an electrical socket anyway, but the media wouldn’t have paid any attention to them.

That brings us back to Bob’s advice. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t go into obviously sketchy neighborhoods for any reason (no matter how much you need that Pikachu) without good reason and adequate precautions. And keep an eye out for potential trouble. (If you live in a state where it’s still legal and you’ve gotten the appropriate training, it wouldn’t hurt to be packing some heat as well.) And don’t blame the ills of the world on Pokemon Go. It’s stupid people who are ruining everything.

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