While Pokémon Go is still in its infancy, it's becoming more and more clear that the game's approach to creating in-game hotspots is posing some serious problems. In addition to the influx of aspiring pokémon trainers flooding the 9/11 Memorial in New York, the US Holocaust Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery — both located in Washington, DC — have acknowledged the game on Twitter this afternoon. The museum is asking its visitors to be "respectful of our role as a memorial," and the cemetery is a little more forceful: it's asked its guests to refrain from playing Pokémon Go on its grounds, noting it's not "appropriate decorum."
The game is even having an impact on solemn landmarks in countries where it hasn't been officially released. "Allowing such games to be active on the site of Auschwitz Memorial is disrespectful to the memory of the victims of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp on many levels," said Auschwitz Memorial spokesperson Pawel Sawicki to The New York Times in an email. Pokémon Go still hasn't been released in Europe yet.
We welcome & encourage visitors to use technology to engage w/our exhibitions & programs while being respectful of our role as a memorial.— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) July 12, 2016
We do not consider playing "Pokemon Go" to be appropriate decorum on the grounds of ANC. We ask all visitors to refrain from such activity.— Arlington Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) July 12, 2016
This is a complicated problem for Niantic and The Pokémon Company, and it's only going to become more glaring as the game becomes more popular and officially expands around the world. In a joint statement given to The Verge today, the companies encouraged users to report inappropriate in-game locations online:
Pokéstops and Gyms in Pokémon Go are found at publicly accessible places such as historical markers, public art installations, museums and monuments. If you want to report inappropriate locations or content, please submit a ticket on the Pokémon Go Support website... We will take relevant steps at that point based on the nature of the inquiry.
What exactly does "relevant steps" entail? Does it mean shutting down gyms and pokéstops located at controversial sites until further notice? Is there a certain complaint threshold that needs to be met in order for Niantic to make an evaluation? Will the company make it easier for players to quickly report stops and gyms from within the game itself? There are two new questions for every answer.
It's also a problem that reflects somewhat poorly on the game's collective player base: fleeting guilt aside, it seems like many people simply can't help themselves from popping into places meant for national mourning for battles and items. Do Pokémon Go players need Niantic's intervention to realize that Auschwitz and the 9/11 Memorial aren't the best places to catch 'em all?