Pokémon Go and the Sanctity of Space

Pokémon Go and the Sanctity of Space


Tea: Fitness Herb Tea


With Pokémon Go’s steady advances to submit the world to its reign territory by territory, a few issues have arisen as is always the case with big global phenomena taking over. If you are wondering whether your loyal Mr Teatime has been subjected to the power regime of “Catching them all”, then no, he hasn’t. Not because he doesn’t want to, but because he has an old Blackberry that cannot run the game for the life of it. Personal inner growing hatred aside, there have been some rather interesting cases of Pokémon making an appearance and a public outcry about it and that is why we will dissect them today.

The poison gas Pokémon Koffing has appeared in Auschwitz and consequently people are offended by the game and the violation of a historical place. The same goes for some more memorials for wars, soldiers, or in general places were lots of people died or are honoured to have died/killed for a greater cause. All of this raises the question of whether the developers are to blame for this and if they should remove such locations from the game’s grid (which they are, but we are still going to argue about this regardless). From my humble point of view, they shouldn’t. Basically I have to defend the status of a work of art here. You may disagree that Pokémon Go is a work of art and the definition is certainly wonky at times, but basically it is a creation and whether a highbrow committee of smug elitist snobs would classify it as such is irrelevant. The moment a creator releases his work to the world he can no longer be held accountable for what people do with it, he is certainly responsible for the content, but not the consequences. A poem written by William Blake cannot hold said mastermind accountable for any interpretation that flows out of a literary scholar’s mouth. The same way the developer of a game cannot be held accountable as to where people chose to play a certain game and what they may or may not cause by doing so. Would the same controversy still have arisen, if one had played Candy Crush in a gas chamber? Probably not, but great power brings great controversy. Same thing goes for any accidents caused by the game. An accusation cannot be formed, since the game itself warns you about staying aware of your surroundings. The only accusation that could be mustered up is that they made the game too addictive and it should be clear how flimsy of a reason that is.


– Not to be rude or anything, but what would be a more fitting place for Koffing? –

People are trying to “protect” certain environments and sterilise them from any influence, conserving them for years to come and pointing at it to show generations the past in a very plastic way through dry historical monologues. And this is certainly not a bad thing. The habit that is troublesome is not that Pokémon Go was played, but that a smartphone was taken out at all. Pokémon Go is simply the maypole of controversy these moral advocates can now dance around. The point is, stating that a game that promises to turn the world into a giant game must not include any space were horrible things happened or people are honoured for dying due to horrible things or (in the case of America) being honoured for doing horrible things, will turn out to be pretty small then. People have died everywhere and in alarmingly large numbers. What about churches, hospitals, retirement homes, etc etc. the list could go on and on. Once you start excluding one place these people will never stop. And it is not like people take memorials serious 100% of the time anyway. The bigger issue at play here is, how we should handle these places in general and not in regard to one specific app. Should maps not include them without a big description of what horrible deeds took place there, would that then violate the sanctity as well?


– The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a serious contemplative space where everyone reflects upon the atrocities inflicted upon others years ago. –

Pokémon has always caused quite a bit of uproar, when it first debuted churches preached against the hellish game. And I think we can all agree how stupid that was. Video games still struggle for their place in society and while it may be perfectly acceptable to check your What’s App messages in the middle of a battlefield, playing a game is not. The transformative function of Pokémon Go and all these GPS based games is astounding. They twist and turn the meaning of places around, granting importance to seemingly unimportant spots and robbing well established locations of their status by not including them. I am more than just curious as to where this will take us. A great example is the British Museum openly advertising the Pokémon and Poke Stops in its building, not banning the app and insisting on their arrogant right to seriousness in this space. Progress for progress’ sake is something I never advertise, but this is a different case. This game is changing the world in a rather positive way, people are meeting and enjoying their time outside, making new friends. Yes, negative events occur, but name me something that does not have at least one negative side-effect.


– Proof that some people are not sitting on such a high horse that they cannot register changes going on in the world deep below. –

So should the concentration camp be removed? No, in my opinion it shouldn’t. People should raise awareness for the events that took place there and ask everyone taking a tour to kindly pay attention and not use their phone and any app on it. Then the place fulfils the intended role. Banning a single game is ridiculous and somewhat naïve. Maybe the hype around this will die down eventually, or maybe we are merely at the start of one of the most influential events of our times, we can only wait and see. And I will participate with joy in a reflected manner… If I ever get the hardware to do so…


Image sources in order of appearance:


4 thoughts on “Pokémon Go and the Sanctity of Space

  1. I want to join the Pokémon hunt so bad! Also lacking the hardware, though, which drives me crazy!
    Concerning your article, I absolutely agree: something like letting Koffing (which reminds me eerily of “coffin”, though) appear in Auschwitz isn´t a bad thing in itself. It shows that the developers thought about placing Pokémon in our world and didn´t just randomly toss them at our faces. Water Pokémon in the desert? No problem! Nah, that just wouldn´t do.


    • I think Koffing is based on the word coughing and transformed orthographically, but not much in the phonetic sense, but your allusion is rather sinister in this context.
      To an extent they are random, and I’d doubt they specifically placed him inside the gaschamber, but Pokémon have regions and I’d assume for Koffing it was industrial areas, therefore also this place.
      Lapras in the desert would be a sight to behold, however.


      • Ah, well, okay, makes sense. Then it really shouldn´t be such a big deal for Koffing to appear in such a place. On the other hand this really lets me down a bit when it comes to the fact that the developers haven´t put as much thought in the game as I had given them credit for. Though I admit that it would have been a tremendous amout of work to assign the Pokémon to each place individually. I see that this would have been utopian.


      • Games that use the literal world as the game world must have an element of procedural generation to fill this vast space. I’d assume they have map data of all the available place and divided into different zones (electric, water, normal, fire etc.) and then assinged a percentange based value to certain Pokémon to appear in these place. This does not exclude someone playing a joke and putting certain Pokémon into certain areas deliberately. As it stands it is a coincidence that does not exclude other fun coincidences happening. Think for instance, Gengar appearing only in graveyards or during funerals.


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