Pokemon GO has attracted millions of players worldwide, and since its release, the game has been the source of numerous odd stories, including armed robberies at lured PokeStops, and individuals who have quit their jobs in order to pursue Pokemon full time. But although the game has a huge player base, not everyone is a fan of Pokemon GO and the way the game was set up. In recent events, a citizen of New Jersey filed a lawsuit in California against Niantic Labs and Nintendo, on account that the game’s augmented reality playfield is leading players to his house and backyard.
As a quick recap for readers who may not be familiar with the way Pokemon GO works, the game is played on a smartphone and takes advantage of the device’s location (GPS) features to recreate an augmented reality version of Google Maps, featuring Pokemon points of interests and so on. Players need to go out in the real world in search for Pokemon, PokeStops, and Gyms, and although the creatures spawn at seemingly random locations, PokeStops and Gyms exist on top of real-world locations and points of interest. As a result, some of these locations have become hotspots for Pokemon GO players, leading to higher traffic in certain areas, and to frustration for non-Pokemon GO players in these regions. In the case of Jeffrey Marder from New Jersey, the man has decided to file a lawsuit against Niantic Labs and Nintendo, on account that the game’s GPS coordinates are leading players to PokeStops and Gyms located on, or adjacent to private properties. According to Jeffrey Marder’s complaint “At least five individuals knocked on plaintiff’s door, informed plaintiff that there was a Pokemon in his backyard, and asked for access to plaintiff’s backyard in order to ‘catch’ the Pokemon.” He also added that the “Defendants have shown a flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokemon without seeking the permission of property owners”.
As of now, neither Niantic nor Pokemon has commented on the situation, and for what it’s worth, the game’s guidelines asks players not to trespass “or in any manner gain or attempt to gain access to any property or location where you do not have the right or permission to be.” Technically this includes knocking on someone’s door to ask for access on their property, but it appears that some Pokemon GO players simply cannot resist the urge regardless of what the guidelines claim. Niantic was also asked to remove certain locations from the game world not too long ago, including the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.