Pokemon Go has had any number of positive side effects since it was introduced, including exposing couch-dwellers to sunlight and fresh air, and encouraging strangers to interact at Gyms and Pokestops. It's been called a boon to businesses and any where else that players congregate, but one public library has found the mobile game to be more of a hassle than a blessing.
The Provo City Library announced on its blog on Thursday that it had asked Niantic to remove the four Pokestops located at the library. While the librarians had initially welcomed Pokemon Go players, over the past few weeks they encountered mounting problems due to the game:
Some of our concerns were minor: increased wear on our grass; an increase in our building’s power consumption; a dramatic increase in the amount of trash brought to the property. Other behaviors were more concerning: we witnessed people selling food and other items—like our electricity—without a permit; we witnessed many players frustrated when their cars were locked in our underground parking overnight; we’ve had complaints about noise levels and activity from surrounding properties. Parking for library events and activities became difficult as event attendees had to park blocks away from the library. Alcohol consumption on the library grounds was also reported. Most concerning were the injuries that occurred on property while playing Pokémon Go that could not be ignored by the library.
The original blog post had 64 comments at the time I wrote this post. Some of the commenters were simply angry over the change, but other cooler heads added context which explained why Provo shut down the Pokestops.
For example, the parking issue had less to do with patrons not finding a space than with the library only having a finite amount of parking to support its event space. It rents out a ballroom, and evening events were competing with Pokemon Go players for an already limited number of parking spaces.
One commenter confirmed the noise complaints and other issues: "I was one of the regulars playing there every night soon after I got back to Utah. There was dubstep music, honking cars, and people yelling things like "get a life you nerds" all of which were going on until midnight and beyond pretty much every night. While I'm sad to see my new favorite hangout disappear so fast, I can understand how it was becoming a public nuisance."
Several commenters also described Provo as a college town, and a high concentration of college students would help explain why noise became as issue. I knew of the city as a tech hub, which again might have contributed to the problems.
In any case, Pokemon Go is the first hugely successful geo-aware augmented reality, but it won't be the last. Niantic is finding through trial-and-error all of the ways that this tupe of game can go wrong.
Let's hope whoever is developing the Harry Potter augmented reality game is watching and taking notes.
(Do I have evidence that this game is in the works? No, but given the huge success of Pokemon Go it is a foregone conclusion that Harry Potter will be next.)
image by Victor Björklund