(NEW YORK) — A man playing the popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go near Central Park in New York was mugged early Monday morning — and caught the violent attack on camera while he live-streamed his game activity.
Rickey Yaneza, 43, who frequents the park with other players, told ABC News he was attacked from behind on Central Park South after the alleged thief knocked him down with a punch, demanded he hand over the devices and took off running.
Yaneza wears three different devices at once, he said: one phone for the game, one for chatting and one to live-stream, so other gamers following his activity saw the attack unfold.
Yaneza’s friends commented live on the attack and his mugging video quickly went viral. He was treated at the scene and sustained only minor injuries with a bruise on his cheek and a scab on his elbow.
“I’m alive,” Yaneza said. “That’s all that matters really.”
Yaneza said he was in search of a creature called a snorelax at the time.
The location-based augmented reality app lets users track and capture virtual creatures through real-life locations. But the game’s popularity, which has led to players using the app while walking around in public areas has raised security concerns and caused problems for many participants.
In July, there was a string of incidents in Missouri where three teens were charged with armed robbery after allegedly staking out specific game locations and waiting for distracted players to arrive so they could rob them.
Another incident a month later, caught on police body cam footage, showed a distracted Pokémon Go player using the app while driving a vehicle that proceeded to crash into a parked police patrol car. The officers were standing beside the police vehicle and were unharmed. The driver immediately told officials the accident was a result of playing the game.
According to a new study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), if players use their cars to search for Pokémon, they can incur serious risk. The study cites 14 motor vehicle crashes within a 10-day span, which reportedly involved Pokémon Go.
Yaneza’s viral attack raises safety concerns and acts as a reminder for augmented reality users to be careful and stay vigilant.
Pokémon Go developer Niantic told ABC News in a statement that they take “safety seriously” and encourage players to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
“We’re glad to see that Rickey is safe and we’re sorry to hear that this has happened to him, but it’s heartening to see that despite this incident, his attitude remains upbeat and positive,” the statement reads. “We encourage all people to be aware of their surroundings and to play alongside friends or family, especially after dark or when exploring unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times, don’t drive and play, abide by local laws, and respect the locations you visit and people you meet during your exploration. We ask parents and guardians to be mindful and monitor your child’s online and offline activities so it is a fun and safe experience for all.”
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