The augmented reality game is driving everyone crazy. Despite official advisories to play the game with care and observe your surroundings, many are finding it a nuisance having strangers hanging around their playground, neighbourhoods and even housing premises which are designed as PokeStops – places where players go to replenish their ammunition.
Religious spaces such as churches, mosques and temples are not spared either, being turned into PokeStops or even gyms in the game – a battle ground for your characters. In Malaysia, this has led to some Muftis declaring the game as ‘Haram’ or non-permissible in Islam. It gets even more contentious when Pokemon Gyms and PokeStops begin to appear in the holy city of Mecca and even above the Kabba.
In a city where idolatry is strictly forbidden and billions bow down and prostrate in the direction of the Kabba as an act of submission to Allah s.w.t, an animated character deliberately placed above the Kabba in which Muslims bow down to is just disrespectful and sacrilegious no matter how you see it.
Which bring us to the obvious question. Should we be regulating the PokeStops and Gyms? Can the government do something more than just issuing advisories? Can Nitendo or Niantic (PokemonGO developers) do better like other online phenomena such as Facebook and Google. How much is too much? Why should the Government continue issuing advisories (which has been proven to be super ineffective) when the problem is the location of the PokeStop or the gyms in the game?
To be fair, Niantic did announce that you can write in to them to report an inappropriate location or create new locations for a gym or PokeStop. However no one in the World Wide Web knows what their criterias are or even the guidelines for it other than it should not be on personal property or a dangerous area.
I feel that it is time Niantic take some ownership for the influence they wield with their game. They must be just as responsible as the players who downloaded the game for the effects they have on players and the impact on their surroundings.
Governments too should put their foot down and have the balls to tell Niantic, where they could or could not have their PokeStops and Gyms -because being a popular virtual reality game means you still have to be sensitive to local rules, social norms and customs.
At least that is what i think and strongly feel la. Banning it is too draconian. Just a little bit more control on sensitivity that’s all.