Based on the popularity of games like Pokémon GO, augmented reality (AR) games are sure to become even more popular. However, unlike standard games, the interactive nature of AR games poses new legal issues.
AR games allow players to travel through the real world while interacting with digital characters or objects that have been programmed to appear like they exist in physical space. For example, Pokémon GO uses a smartphone’s GPS to direct players to real-life locations where they catch fictional creatures called Pokémon that appear as superimposed images through the phone’s camera feature.
The sudden popularity of Pokémon GO will likely bring about a slew of legal issues. AR game developers would be wise to address these issues in their terms of service and privacy policies.
Trespass and Physical Harm Disclaimers in the Terms of Service
One of the benefits of AR games is that unlike standard games, which are sedentary, AR games encourage the player to “leave the couch” and travel in search of the virtual prize. However, players may find themselves trespassing on private property or injuring themselves or others as they wander in search of virtual characters. There already have been numerous reports of physical injuries involving Pokémon GO, and it has led to muggings, car crashes, cliff rescues and, recently, a shooting.
The Pokémon GO Terms of Service specifically warn users to be aware of their surroundings and to play safely. Importantly, the game’s Terms of Service disclaim all liability related to property damage, personal injury or death, and violations of law such as trespass or negligence. Although the foreseeability of potential harm may lead to legal challenges for the terms of service, it is imperative to include in your terms of service a warning to users about the potential harm and to allocate the responsibility to the user, who is ultimately responsible for the manner in which they choose to play the game.