The memory spaces and the phenomenon Pokemon Go

September 2nd, 2016: The memory spaces facing the phenomenon “Pokemon Go!”
Author: Marc Laurenceau

The game “Pokemon Go” appeared in July 2016 around the world and has won immediate success with millions of users. They travel miles with their smartphones to discover and collect virtual creatures. Problem: the famous creatures have also invaded spaces of memory such as military cemeteries and museums on the Holocaust.

Since early summer 2016, memorial sites such as the Arlington American War Cemetery (US), the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the Douaumont Ossuary near Verdun are concerned about The presence of “players” who visit these spaces of memory not to honor the memory of the disappeared, but simply to acquire in a virtual way imaginary creatures.

Indeed, the creators of the game used a software to distribute these famous “Pokemon” on the whole planet. These creatures appear on the screen of smartphones thanks to augmented reality when the application has been previously installed. But the software to distribute these creatures did not take care to take into account military bases, where traffic is obviously restricted, as well as memory sites. The debate is now open: can we accept the Pokemon in military cemeteries or sites dedicated to the memory of the deceased soldiers?

The Holocaust Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery in the United States are now advocating not to “hunt” the Pokemon on their property. More shockingly, the developers of the American company Niantic have not thought of removing the virtual creatures from the Auschwitz concentration camp. Pawal Sawicki, director of the museum located near this memory space, wrote a letter to Niantic to demand the removal of the geolocation of the camp on the application. “We find this kind of practice inappropriate. It is here that thousands of people have suffered, Jews, Poles, Roma, Russians and other nations, “he said. “We want to make all game producers aware of the memory of the victims of this biggest Nazi death camp in the Second World War,” he said.
Incidents have already broken out between veterans and players on the memorial sites, to the point of forcing the US Department of Veterans Affairs to install signs warning of the ban on using “Pokemon Go” in certain places .

On 25 July 2016, the Commonwealth War Grave Commission also sent a message to the users of the online game, asking them to respect the memorial sites where soldiers are buried during the last two Conflicts.

If the players of “Pokemon Go” claim to go to the discovery of different places thanks to augmented reality, some are ready to anything to complete their virtual collection, to the point of lacking discernment while continuing their activities in certain memorial spaces. More than ever, it seems necessary to educate the players on the attitude to adopt in such places. But the role of developers is equally important: it is up to them to remove the geolocalizations of the virtual creatures of the sites that have requested it. Niantic partnered with Nintendo in a joint statement explaining that it has chosen public monuments and museums around the world to centralize gaming activities. A form to request the removal of augmented reality Pokemon in some places is now available on the Niantic website. However, it is not clear at this time whether certain memorial areas such as the Auschwitz camp or military cemeteries will soon be removed from the Pokemon Go database.

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