Pokestops cause controversy

Erin Zaranec

At times, “Pokemon Go” players seem more interested in spinning for pokeballs than where that Pokestop is located. Kent State’s May 4 Memorial is no exception.

“We wanted to make sure those people who didn’t understand why (the May 4 Memorial) is a sacred space were made aware of that. We worked with the local Pokemon community to make sure those who didn’t understand the importance of our space would be educated on that,” said Mindy Farmer, director of the May 4 Visitor’s Center. “Education was our main focus.”

While there is no physical signage posted to prevent players from using the grounds as a Pokestop, Farmer said action was taken over the summer to control the crowds.

“We haven’t seen it as much of an issue since school started, but for about a week or two over the summer we had a student worker or Laurie (Boes), the assistant director, stationed outside to educate players who were using our space,” Farmer said.

Other Pokestops that have made headlines include:

Cleveland’s Cudell Gazebo, the location of the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. “Pokemon Go” players used this space as a memorial to Rice, leaving mementos of respect during their game time. The description of the Pokestop was also updated to read “Community memorial for Tamir Rice, shot and killed by CPD officers who shot him in under 2s after breaking department policy regarding escalation of force.”

-Arlington National Cemetery, United States Military Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. While various cemeteries across the nation have been turned into Pokestops and Gyms, Arlington National Cemetery being turned into a Pokestop has caused a stir of controversy. In July, the cemetery’s official Twitter account publicly condemned using the space as a gaming zone when it posted: “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.”

-Westboro Baptist Church headquarters, the controversial church known for anti-LGBTQ views in Kansas City. Both users and Westboro Baptist Church members were displeased with the game’s decision to make the headquarters a Pokestop. The church went to social media, creating memes and GIFs condemning Pokemon.

In response to the controversial locations, Niantic, the developers of “Pokemon Go,” created a ‘report’ feature for users to report inappropriate Pokestops featured in the game. Since the feature has been enabled, locations such as the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan have been removed as Pokestops.

If enough reports are received, locations may be removed by Niantic. The developers now also offer an option for businesses and locations to request becoming a Pokestop, allowing companies to take advantage of crowds that may be brought in by the game.

Contact Erin Zaranec at [email protected].