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I'm currently building an Android game as a solo dev. It follows the trend of geolocation-based games (like Niantic), but with more unique aspects.

Anyway, I noticed that in Niantic games - Ingress, Pokemon Go - there's always a "check your surroundings" or "don't drive and play" kind of warning to the player in the splash screen. I'm afraid that it might have something to do with legal implications regarding people being trampled or fall to their death while playing.

While I'm definitely not a fan of losing my player base / cause pain and sorrow to their families, I still see no reason to add this to my game. Because let's face it, people promptly ignore warnings like that and play the way the want in the end.

My case is somehow different from most geolocation games, in the sense that one of its unique features is that you don't need to keep looking at the screen to play. In case it helps to clarify how it works here is the play store's link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arvere.theforage (I'm not sure if this is compliant with SE's rules, if it isn't, I ask to some mod to remove it, please)

So, would there be any reason (besides legal security) to do this in a game like mine?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It makes sense. But still, I'm more interested in what motivated Niantic to do so. I could change the question to disaddress my game (since I don't actually want a specific legal advice on it) \$\endgroup\$ – arvere Jul 4 '18 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ An improvement you could do to the question: describe the specific aspects of the game instead of linking to it. This now forces the users to look at it, and is subject to link rot. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Jul 4 '18 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ "one of its unique features is that you don't need to keep looking at the screen to play". Although this may sound like a plus, I wouldn't be surprised if people think "I can play this while I'm driving, I don't have to look at the screen". Also you can't really think like "people will ignore it anyway, so I might as well not put it there", the whole of point of these messages is for the developers to say "I tried to warn people about the dangers". Apart from making the game itself less "active" (which is undesirable most likely) there's not much more you can do to avoid legal trouble. \$\endgroup\$ – TomTsagk Jul 4 '18 at 17:10
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Some geolocation games like Pokemon Go had quite a lot of bad press due to people getting injured while playing them. There were also cases of people trespassing on private property or entering restricted areas because the game they played encouraged them to do so.

When a company needs to defend itself against allegations that they put their players in danger, then being able to say "We told people to be careful, it's not our fault when they ignore our warnings" is certainly a good defense.

But what's in my opinion more important than trying to find some magic words to protect ourselves from bad PR is that we as game designers take responsibility. We have to make sure we design our games in ways which don't encourage reckless behavior. For example, when we reward players for moving quickly from A to B in urban environments, we encourage them to jaywalk or dash through crowds. And when we place objectives at randomly chosen geo-coordinates, we risk sending people into private or even dangerous areas.

As game designers, we usually encourage players to be bold, take risks and explore the limits of their abilities, because it makes for exciting and memorable gameplay. As long as the game takes place in a virtual space, there is nothing wrong with that. The only thing the player really puts at risk is their game progress. But if we apply the same risk - reward mechanics to games which take place in a physical environment, then we need to be far more responsible. That means that we need to work against our usual habits and instincts.

Games can be really powerful motivators. A player who is fully immersed in a good game will do whatever it takes to win. So we need to make sure that we do not reward people for putting themselves into physical or legal danger.

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