“Pokemon Go” Craze and Inappropriate Conduct

July 18, 2016

Photo illustration of a "Pidgey" Pokemon seen on the screen of the Pokemon Go mobile appMillions of people around the world are now enjoying the augmented reality game, “Pokemon Go” on their mobile devices.  The game’s widespread popularity has been welcome news for the Nintendo company and its investors, but has generated concern at some of the locations where the public has chosen to play the game.

“Pokemon Go” incorporates virtual characters into real locations.  Through their smartphones and other mobile devices, individuals can see the virtual characters superimposed on images of their real location.  Using this augmented reality system, people can interact with the virtual characters through their mobile devices at any publicly accessible physical location.

The game is proving to be fun and highly popular.  Concerns arise, however, when people choose to play “Pokemon Go” while visiting locations where many view such entertainment to be disruptive or otherwise inappropriate.  For example, interacting with “Pokemon Go” characters inside a church or other religious building during a service is viewed by many to be inappropriate behavior.

Matsuura Blakeley BannerA variety of institutions and organizations are now attempting to block or limit “Pokemon Go” participation at certain sensitive locations.  For instance, Arlington National Cemetery and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have both requested that all of their visitors refrain from using “Pokemon Go” during their visits.

There is reportedly a relatively simple process through which any site can request removal from the Pokemon system.  Apparently, “Pokemon Go” simply integrates as many publicly accessible sites as it can into the platform, thus making them part of the game system.  Upon request, it seems that any site can be removed from the game.  For example, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust reportedly followed the process and was successfully removed from the platform.

It seems that the most effective approach to preventing use of this or any other mobile game or entertainment platform in an inappropriate place relies on self-help by the site involved and basic courtesy on the part of individual game users.  Organizations should clearly inform visitors if use of these game systems at the site is prohibited, and the organizations should take all reasonable actions available to them to prevent the inappropriate conduct.  Individual visitors should exercise common sense and courtesy as they make use of game platforms.

Ideally, any issues of inappropriate use of “Pokemon Go” and other mobile game systems can be managed effectively through sensible conduct by individual users and the sites involved.  This situation provides an excellent example of the type of issue associated with technology use which is best handled by thoughtful cooperation instead of formal legal actions such as legislation, regulation or litigation.