Pokemon Go Game Theory

The only saving grace of the mistake was that he aimed, fired and missed the two boys.

A man was sleeping in his Palm Coast area home about 1:30 a.m. when a loud noise woke him up. The 37-year-old looked outside and spotted a white car parked in the road outside his Primrose Lane house, said Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Jim Troiano.

He grabbed his handgun and went outside to investigate. As he came up to the car, he overheard one of the two teens say “did you get anything?” Troiano said.

That’s when the man stepped in front of the vehicle, thinking they had possibly broken into his home, raised his gun and ordered them not to move, officials said.

They drove toward him in their “escape,” and thinking they were trying to strike him, he fired. Were they trying to rob his home? No. Were they trying to run him down? No. Then what were they doing?

Officials talked with the teens who said they were sitting in the car hunting two Pokemon—a Marowak and Tauros.

One said “Did you catch him?” and the other responded “Yeah, did you?” That’s when the teens said they heard gunfire and sped away, Troiano said.

You saw that coming, right? By this point, the popularity of the free dowload is already the stuff of legends. More downloads than Tinder, which tells you something about the waning interest in sex. And one of the justifications is that it gets the couch cheetos outdoors, it forces them to move. They get exercise.

The founders of Cardiogram, an app for Apple Watch that analyzes heart rate data, looked at heart rate and exercise information from 35,000 Cardiogram Apple Watch users, and saw an increase in users’ overall exercise the weekend after Pokémon Go launched. The exercise increase was across the board — the app makers have no way of knowing who was actually using Pokémon Go. On the day of the launch, about 45 percent of users were exercising 30 or more minutes. Two days later, on a Saturday, that number rose to 50 percent. The next day, it hit 53 percent.

Apparently, exercise is now defined as actual human movement. Standing up. Walking. Things that young people did in the good old days before apps and internet. And they did it for fun. I know!

Chris Seaton, in his Friday parody post at Fault Lines, goes right at it.

You can’t go five minutes these days without a mention of Pokemon Go, the new mobile release from Niantic and Nintendo that has children complaining of “sore legs” from walking around catching virtual monsters on their smartphones and digitally battling fellow “trainers” for control of their local “gym.”

While Chris finds no shortage of aspects of this phenomenon to make fun of, it was only released on July 6th.  Just as its meteoric rise in popularity gave rise to attention, so too does its potential for harm. Beyond the obvious trespass issues, Fox News warns about stupid accidents and hoaxes stemming from the fear.

“Death by Pokemon is coming,” warns Gerry Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law. “Pokemon users will have all sorts of accidents as they use the program while walking, biking, driving, etc.”

Two men apparently playing the game had to be rescued after falling off a 90-foot ocean bluff in California Wednesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

The “Pokemon GO” phenomenon has driven extensive media coverage, but amid all the brouhaha, a number of reports have been identified as hoaxes.

Unsurprisingly, it was also seized upon in conjunction with the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, under the hysterical headline, Warning: Pokemon GO is a Death Sentence if you are a Black Man.

When my brain started combining the complexity of being Black in America with the real world proposal of wandering and exploration that is designed into the gamplay [sic] of Pokemon GO, there was only one conclusion. I might die if I keep playing.

Hyperbole aside, it’s not wrong. It’s also not wrong for the writer, Omari Akil, to say he might die if he walks outside, rides in a car or pretty much does any life function ever. But the idea of a random black guy in the wrong neighborhood, on the wrong property, certainly ups the ante. Unless you’re Heather McDonald, you appreciate that black guys are deemed inherently suspicious, giving rise to the natural reaction of kill them before they kill you.

There will, eventually, be someone playing Pokemon Go who will be killed by mistake. Whether the person will be black or white, who knows. But it will happen.

So when someone is playing a game, and someone else has a gun and doesn’t know that the other someone is playing a game, assumptions will be made and triggers will be pulled. This makes it a good time to remember what the Castle Doctrine is about, and why Stand Your Ground laws don’t mean you must shoot.

The “Castle Doctrine,” as it exists in civilized society, is that a homeowner can shoot to kill a person who unlawfully enters his home at night, but only if he cannot safely retreat.*  For many, this was a brutal twist of the law, since there was no requirement that the shooter’s (or anyone else’s) life be imminently threatened before the taking of another’s life.  Instead, it was a “per se” rule, allowing the defense of a home, “a man’s castle,” by deadly force, subject only to the most limited of conditions.  Killing was a last resort, rather than the front line of home defense.

States have since toyed with the rule, eliminating details, such as entry into an occupied dwelling and, most notably, the requirement that if a person can safely retreat, then retreat he must. That’s the Stand Your Ground aspect, that you get to kill even if killing could be avoided by retreat. It’s an elevation of machismo over human life, and lots of people just love it to death.

But after the adrenaline wears off, the sense of power and control that comes from shooting lawfully at another human being, you’re not going to feel very good about yourself if the person you shot was some kid trying to nab Pikachu. You may be able to rationalize it by the fact that a kid playing Pokemon Go looks pretty much like anyone else on your property who doesn’t belong there, wasn’t invited and, at least in some states, is asking for it, but that kid is someone’s child who neither threatened you, your family nor your possessions. He didn’t need killing.

They’re outside? They’re “fleeing”? They aren’t threatening you? Let them go. Just because the law might allow you to shoot doesn’t mean you have to. You can still exercise the discretion not to harm or kill someone when there is no actual need.

Will the next problem be malevolent home invaders who claim to be Pokemon Go players? Sure. Why not. If there’s an angle to be played, someone will play it. But the old school Castle Doctrine, where nobody shot until the threat was real, and nobody took a life if they didn’t have to, and the defense of property wasn’t considered worth killing over, can still guide your choices. It’s a friggin’ game, people. It’s not worth dying for, or killing for. It’s just a game.

*The distinction made by the Castle Doctrine was that it negated the duty to retreat that would otherwise apply within a person’s dwelling. As was pointed out below, I misstated the law and correct my error.

9 thoughts on “Pokemon Go Game Theory

  1. KP

    “”thinking they had possibly broken into his home, raised his gun and ordered them not to move””

    Nope, not Pokemon.. its “thinking” the wrong thing that leads to an inappropriate action that will get you killed.

    If the kids ran him over and killed him I would feel fine about it. Even if they pulled out a gun and killed him in self-defence…

    I want more than “thinking they had possibly broken into his home” before someone removes his gun from his holster.

  2. Hal

    Death by Pokemon? I’m having a hard seeing this as anything other than chlorine in the gene pool.

    1. SHG Post author

      Don’t go there. There is nothing wrong with someone enjoying some Pokemon, and it’s certainly not worthy of execution.

  3. bacchys

    That’s not the Castle Doctrine in a civilized society. It’s the Castle Doctrine in a society that has decided to give prosecutors the authority to decide who has the right self-defense and who doesn’t.

    Not long ago an Airman in Maryland shot a man who had broken down his door at 2 am after being told he wasn’t going to be allowed in. The man had a history of harassing the Airman’s wife. The prosecutor decided he should have called 911 and hoped the man didn’t hurt someone in the house while he waited for the police to show up.

    That’s not civilized. It’s just stupid.

    1. SHG Post author

      Civilized doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid. But it does mean fewer people are killed by stupid than there would be otherwise. And cool anecdote, bro. #AllAnecdotesMatter

  4. Random Wine Geek

    I think your summary of the Castle Doctrine errs when it states that the doctrine includes a duty to retreat. It has always been my understanding that the significance of the Castle Doctrine is that it eliminates the duty to retreat when inside the home.

    “Stand your ground” laws extend the elimination of the duty to retreat to any place a person has a lawful right to be.

  5. Jim Tyre

    “Death by Pokemon is coming,” warns Gerry Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law.

    I saw no need to keep reading after that. If a titled lawprof tells me its true, then so it must be, because, titles.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s why I included that paragraph. Academic cred (and the mad ability to see into the future with absolute certainty), baby.

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