Pokemon NOPE: Pikachu Versus Public Spaces

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This has been the summer of Pokémon GO. The app isn’t even two months old yet and it has enraptured, enchanted, and frustrated people all across the world. It’s gotten people to experience the outdoors in a new way and, in a few cases, experience the outdoors at all. There’s no question of the game’ s popularity. There have been, however, a few questions of how that popularity affects the public areas marked as Pokéstops.

Recently, the Milwaukee County Parks Department submitted a letter to John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, maker of the game. The letter appears to ask Niantic to remove the PokéStops in downtown Milwaukee’s Lake Park from the game. The county claims the company is in violation of their geocache policy. The letter cites increased citations, parking tickets, and violations of park curfews for the request and have asked for Niantic to remove the sites until the county can review the impact of the game on the site and assess fees to the company to pay. Milwaukee Record posted a time lapse video of the increased traffic in Lake Park in an article commenting on the letter.

Milwaukee is not the only public area to threaten to shut down the game. Houston’s Discovery Green faced similar issues from eager fans disregarding park rules. Questions of respect surrounding a Pokéstop at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. cropped up early in the game’s release. Libraries and other areas have also suddenly found themselves trying to quickly establish a Pokémon policy. Even the National Mall has had to deal with errant trainers wandering off path, though they have taken a hands-on approach by asking players to join tour groups already checking out the historical spaces in the city.

Businesses wrestle with how to handle players of the game. Some shops and bars have placed angry signs in windows shooing away players who only stop in to catch creatures. Others have embraced the game wholeheartedly. “It’s been wonderful,” said Lynn Nilles, owner of 42 Lounge in Milwaukee. “From a revenue standpoint, it’s had a tremendous impact. I can see in our sales numbers the day it hit. It’s slowed down a bit since then, but what’s really keeping it going is how it has brought people together. I love hearing the entire bar shout when a rare Pokémon shows up. If there’s one down the street, people will get out of their chairs and travel together to go find it.”

“Players go to where the highest concentration of Pokéstops are,” added her partner, Anthony Nilles, “they have then shown that they patronize business and services in the immediate area. Yes, it takes a toll on infrastructure—but that is what the infrastructure is there for—and businesses that properly capitalize/monetize the PoGo craze should easily be able to offset those costs.”

Fans of the game argue that PokéStops shouldn’t be closed down because of the actions of a few bad apples. In Milwaukee, they are organizing to make their voices heard at a meeting with city officials discussing the proposed changes. Fans have also organized cleanups of cigarette butts and trash left behind in the wake of Pokémon mania. The reaction on social media has already caused the Milwaukee County Executive Office to send a memo to clarify the initial remarks, a second letter to clarify the first letter and remind players that they hosted their own Pokémon event merely one month ago.

It just goes to show that whenever something gets very popular, opinions on it always seems to… evolve.

How do you think public places should handle Pokestops? Post your suggestions in the comments!

Image credit Milwaukee Record, giphy.com

Featured image credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

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