Describing Pokemon GO as a "mobile game" is definitely an understatement. Quickly after launching in early July, Niantic Labs' latest creation assumed all features of a fully developed social phenomenon. It didn't just entertain people, it prompted them to actually do something like go outside, be more active, meet other people, and walk sheltered dogs but also put other individuals in a quite literal line of fire and was connected to various other unfortunate incidents. Well, the San Francisco-based Niantic Labs now has another item to add to the long list of ways in which its new augmented reality game made an impact on the real world. Namely, a huge debate on land rights and property laws is currently ongoing all over the world and it was directly prompted by—what else than—Pokemon GO.
Among other things, legal experts, politicians, and the general public in the US and elsewhere have recently been arguing about the potential threat to society posed by violent mobile games wrapped in Pokemon GO's format that will likely be released in the future. People aren't just afraid of trespassers, they fear that their property may actually be in danger if some theoretical location-based mobile game of the future draws attention to it. On the other hand, some people are interested in completely opposite side-effects of global gaming phenomena. As one individual from Massachusetts recently asked on Twitter, would a virtual Pokemon GO gym located in front of a house raise the real value of that house?
Brian Wassom, a Michigan-based lawyer with experience in legal cases related to augmented reality recently spoke to Reuters and clarified that Niantic is only in danger of facing credible lawsuits if a plaintiff or plaintiffs can not only prove some kind of physical damage to their property or persons but can also directly link that to Pokemon GO. That's pretty much why Niantic recently updated its game to include messages that warn players not to trespass and be mindful of their surroundings while catching virtual pocket monsters. Still, Wassom admitted that it's possible that even some shakier cases hold in court due to the practically inevitable fact that law is always at least one step behind the emerging technology it's supposed to regulate. What does that mean for the future of land rights, property laws, and society in general? Only time will tell.