Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pokemon Get Off My Lawn

Just kidding, I love Pokemon Go, or I love the idea of it, anyway*. Yesterday the weather in Leicester was beautiful, a balmy 25 degrees, and Pokemon Go was released officially in the UK. Enthusiasts were out in full force, and dozens of them stopped near my house (we're a gym!). I immediately wondered where all the location data come from for the game, as the Atlantic points out it's basically a maps app with a gaming interface. And now there are ancillary businesses cropping up around the game, including a car-sharing app in Boston that charges $5 a ride between PokeStops.

The Atlantic and Mashable both answered the question of where the Pokemon Go location data come from a week ago, after the game was released in the states. Well, they tried anyway. Apparently the company (Niantic) used some data from a previous game (Ingress) to create PokeStops and gyms for the game. But it doesn't seem possible that all of the data came from there. Google Earth locations are another likely source, from geotagged photos (although these can be pretty off the mark), houses of worship, etc. According to the Atlantic article, lots of people who live in converted churches are seeing players congregating around their homes. Maybe these seemed like safe locations for people to stop and play with their phones for a bit? Some churches (possibly those omitted in the original algorithm) are looking at it as a way to attract new congregants.

A few accidents have happened in the States already involving Pokemon Go. There have been a few spots in the game that are dangerous or defunct or maybe people just can't safely mill around on their phones. You can submit such a location for removal from the game. I hope the game continues to get people outside and interacting with their cyborg environment, and sometimes each other. I love it. (Unlike some.)

*I've never been much into gaming of any sort but I'm in a small minority among my friends, I think.

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