Launched July 6 – just six short weeks ago – PokemonGo has made more than $200 million and has more than 20 million users – likely a LOT more. Some counties are taking advantage and exposing players to government services while for other counties it just increasing the burden.
So what is PokemonGO exactly?
The app, available on Apple iOS and Google Android, is an augmented reality (AR) game that uses a smartphone’s built-in GPS and camera to make creatures appear as though they’re embedded in the physical environment being navigated by players. To ‘catch’ the Pokemon players use tools provided at ‘Pokestops’. In addition, players can set their Pokemon to battle other player Pokemon in ‘gyms’. ‘Pokestops’ are most commonly found at churches, cemeteries, and local historical or natural landmarks. There are fewer ‘gyms’ then ‘Pokestops’ but ‘gyms’ can also be found in various locations. There are many stories of businesses using ‘lures’ provided in the game to lure Pokemon and thereby customers to their businesses but there are also stories of game players trespassing in order to find that elusive Pokemon.
How are counties taking advantage of PokemonGO mania?
Many counties are embracing PokemonGo by hosting Pokemon Hunting Parties at their parks and encouraging visitors to hunt Pokemon while enjoying public spaces. Recently, the City of Tallahassee hosted a Pokemon Party at Cascades Park to promote their web canopy . The event turned out more than 2,000 Pokemon players. Other Florida counties hosted Pokemon hunting events at their libraries.
In Craighead County, Arkansas, representatives from the elections office created a voter registration drive at a Pokestop near a local university to encourage students to register to vote. The elections office found a Pokestop near campus and placed ‘lures’ throughout the day drawing players trying to catch Pokemon. While there, officials took the opportunity to register new voters and update existing contact information.
Los Angeles County is helping its public transit riders catch Pokemon by using a Twitter account that is updated with where rare Pokemon are being found in and throughout L.A.
With the good also comes the bad…
Part of a Facebook post from Pasco County Sheriff warning players to be careful.
With so many people out and about hunting Pokemon a strain is being put on some government services and locations. Martin County, Florida has had to hire additional security at parks to shoo out hunters when the parks close and keep them out after hours. The Sheriff in Pasco County put out a friendly reminder to Pokemon users that trespassing is still illegal and players should always be aware of their surroundings when playing.
The federal government has taken action in many respects when it comes to Pokemon GO. The game has been banned in the Pentagon and on any Pentagon provided phones. Arlington Cemetery has asked players to not play on our country’s most hallowed ground. And while Pokestops and gyms can be found in airports, Pokemon cannot – preventing players from unwittingly violating safety and security protocols.
Can I add or remove Pokestops or Gyms?
In short, no. But it is something that Niantic is looking into and updating. Interest has been expressed by businesses and Niantic to allow advertising and Pokestops to be added to increase foot traffic to their business. In Japan, Niantic worked with McDonalds to put ‘gyms’ at their 3,000 locations there. In the latest update, Pokestops were removed from Hiroshima and Berlin holocaust memorials; accordingly, it seems that Niantic is also working to remove Pokestops and/or gyms from inappropriate locations.
Tell the Florida Association of Counties how your county is responding to PokemonGO
Please send your press releases and/or announcements regarding PokemonGo and share with FAC how your county is addressing the craze to Cragin Mosteller. Results to the poll questions will be included in FAC’s next issue of News & Notes.