Pokémon GO, a new smartphone game from Nintendo, has been making headlines in recent days. With the phenomenon sweeping the globe, we want to give our views on why we think this new game should be banned from Holocaust memorials and former concentration camps.
Pokemon GO is a smartphone game which uses “augmented reality” to enable people to find cartoon “pocket monsters” by physically moving around in real life and seeing them appear on their phone.
The game has turned into a “commercial and cultural phenomenon” since it was launched on 5th July in America and it was today released in the United Kingdom.
As a result, Nintendo’s stock price has risen by more than 50% and added over $7 billion to its market value in just a few days. The game is even said to have more daily users than Twitter and it has not yet released in all territories around the world, which means its popularity is set to rise.
Millions of people have embraced the phenomenon, including Israel’s President Reuben Rivlin who posted a picture on Facebook of a Pokemon in his office. And the Israeli Navy who posted an image on their official Facebook page showing a giant Pokemon looming over one of their naval fleet.
Despite the game’s success, it has also drawn criticism. The game encourages users to walk around the real world to try and find Pokemon leading to some concerns.
The Auschwitz museum in southern Poland said Wednesday that it had now taken the step of asking the makers of the game, Niantic Labs (who developed the game for Nintendo), to block players from playing at the former Nazi concentration camp.
“We find this kind of activity inappropriate. It’s here that hundreds of thousands of people suffered: Jews, Poles, Roma, Russians and individuals from other nations,” museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki told AFP.
“Generally speaking, we want to raise awareness among game developers regarding respect for the memory of the victims of this largest Nazi death camp from World War II.”
The US Holocaust Museum in Washington has also asked people not to play Pokemon GO on their phones during their visit.
“Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism,” Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director, told the Washington Post.
The museum is listed by the game as a “PokeStop”, where players can collect items, which we feel is highly inappropriate. Mr Holling said they are “trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game.”
There have been other sensitive sites, such as ‘Ground Zero’, which has also been listed as a PokeStop and people have rightfully been upset at the insensitivity of gamers coming to the area to catch pokemon and collect items, rather than respecting those who lost their lives during 9/11.
There was also one image being shared of a “Koffing”, a poison type Pokémon which emits ‘poisonous gas’, being found at the entrance of Auschwitz, which again, while not intended by Nintendo, is highly inappropriate for the site and could cause a great deal of offense.
It is important to note that the game generates Pokemon randomly throughout the world so the company does not choose which Pokemon appear where and, as yet, they do not have a fix for this issue.
Ultimately, it is up to individual users to have self-control when visiting areas such as Auschwitz. People need to be aware of their surroundings and have respect for the places they visit. Having said that, we also feel Nintendo should take an active role in helping to stop people from playing their game while at sensitive places.
It would do very well for the game developers to take on board the considerations of Holocaust museums and memorials and find a way to address this issue as we believe that banning Pokemon GO from these sites is the right thing to do.
Let us hope that Niantic Labs and Nintendo will do all they can to address this issue. We feel it is important to respect the sensitivity of these historic sites.