Pokémon Go: How to do it Right

The new augmented reality game by Niantic Labs, Pokémon Go, has already passed the 100 million download mark with no sign of stopping. When you turn on the app, an accurate map of your location is superimposed with PokeStops , Gyms, and 142 of the original 151 Pokemon (three are not native to the Americas and the rest are not yet out), effectively turning planet Earth into the Kanto Region. Despite the AR being in its initial stage and lacking things like trading, live battles, and an accurate tracker, users are everywhere and are already making a noticeable impact on interactive technology culture.

When you do play, however, it is important to remember a few things:

-Keep an eye on your surroundings

This may seem like obvious advice, but it is actually really easy to lose track of your surroundings, especially when you are in pursuit of the Snorlax that just spawned in your neighborhood. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the chase, but when you don't pay attention, it is very easy to get lost or injured or to end up on private or restricted property. Do NOT play and drive under any circumstances. If you have a passenger in the car and want to refill at the nearest PokeStop, give them the phone and they can do it for you. Eleven teens die every day from texting while driving, and typing is a much less immersive process than throwing Pokeballs and checking CP levels. Trespassing is another serious problem associated with Pokémon Go. Several automobile accidents have already been reported due to a driver or bystander's distraction. To trespass is to knowingly enter and/or remain on private property without permission. There are exceptions, of course; going on someone's property for the purpose of delivering something or talking to them will not lead to an arrest, but Pokémon Go players can and have been charged for following Pokémon into clearly privately owned areas, such as lawns, zoos, country clubs, cemeteries, and college campuses. Some of these places are considered open to the public, but that status can change if the location has designated hours or if you have been asked by the owner to leave. In New York, trespassing can range from a violation to a felony.

It is not always easy to distinguish a public area from a semi-public or restricted area, but there are a few clues that can help:

  1. Public forums such as streets, sidewalks and parks are generally open to the public.
  2. Public access to government owned property and buildings may be restricted.
  3. Shopping malls, stores, restaurants and the like are considered semi-public places subject to restrictions.
  4. Most public and semi-public places post signs advising when they are open for access.
  5. Local laws may prohibit loitering in public and semi-public places.
  6. Open property not restricted by gates, fences or signs, like open fields or woods, does not mean the area is open to the public. It is illegal to knowingly enter or remain unlawfully on private property, even in the absence of no trespassing signs. If an owner requests that your leave the property, you must do so.
  7. Never enter school buildings, children's camps or military bases without permission.

-Know when to back down

There are Gyms and PokeStops all around you, but that does not mean you should visit them all and at any time. Places with historical importance, for instance, often have multiple PokeStops and Gyms, and many of these locations are available to everyone. Here is some simple etiquette for hunting Pokémon in public:

  1. If at all possible, keep to the roads and pathways. Most important points will not require you to get too close or to go inside the buildings.
  2. If you see any sort of private event, like a tour group or birthday party, keep your distance. They are not likely to appreciate the interruption and may assume the wrong thing about your presence.
  3. Clean up after yourself. Most areas that are open to the public have routine maintenance, but have enough respect to not leave behind candy bar wrappers or cigarette stubs.
  4. If at all possible, try to restrict your visits to times when the places will be the least busy. Instead of going on weekends, in the morning, or after work, try for weekday afternoons. If you go into a building or enclosed area at night, you risk being reported, arrested, or locked in.
  5. Respect the decisions of property owners. Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Holocaust Museum have asked visitors to refrain from using the app on their premises, as have a number of house and apartment owners. The game may feel harmless to you, but if your presence is upsetting others, know when to stop.

Other less than appropriate places Pokémon Go has shown up in include press conferences, the Pentagon, and hospital rooms. Please use common sense when deciding where to go next on your Pokémon adventure.

Whether you are a seasoned professional from the Gameboy era or a newcomer to the Pokémon world, you owe it to yourself and others to play responsibly. Pokémon Go is not the first augmented reality game, but it is the first one to make a notable profit and will therefore influence the creation of many similar apps. Behavior that offends or endangers will only increase the amount of restrictions and regulations that will be made in the future, so it is important to play well by choice in the present.

-Officer Jenny of New York


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