Wednesday, May 03, 2017

"Pidgey's Law" Couldn't Be Tamed

A new bill in Illinois, developed in the wake of Pokémon Go, has been officially killed by lawmakers. Dubbed "Pidgey's Law" the bill aimed to help reduce harm to the environment. How? Well if you remember last year when the mobile game took off, there were several stories released about people trespassing in order to catch Pokémon, or collect items at a Poké Stop. If you get enough people together for a Poké Hunt, more feet trample more of the ground. And if some of those people are inconsiderate (aka a**holes), they can harm the wildlife, litter, or sometimes vandalize property.

Pidgey's Law would make it, in the state of Illinois at least, illegal for games like Pokémon Go to utilize historical parks, ecological sites, or private property as landmarks in the games. Developers would have 4 days to remove the content, should a location appear in the game, or be faced with a daily fine of $100 until the location is removed. The original bill called for games to not use location mapping at all, but many legal experts found this would be in violation of game developer's first amendment rights. A newer version of the bill was filed in early February.

The intent behind this bill is noble. Members of the Loyola Dunes Restoration group found that their site at Rodgers Park was a Poké Stop. Hundreds of people gathered there daily and were causing environmental harm to the area - probably unaware that this was a sanctioned eco-safe zone that needed protection. The additional damage to the area from the extra foot traffic and littering has forced the government to dump more money into the project to save the wildlife. Illinois lawmakers reacted to help lessen the blow for other historical/private/ecological sites by introducing the Location-based Video Game Protection Act.

The creativity behind location-based AR games is pretty neat. It's much more interactive and you feel a stronger sense of community with others. It also, unfortunately, targets key zones in the game that correspond with areas in reality that are probably not ideal for people to gather at. And developers have been slow to remove spots. Really slow. A community garden in my neighborhood was a Poké Stop. It took almost 8 months to have it removed, and by then we had too many people visiting the space that the neighborhood had to put up a fence to keep people out so they wouldn't trample on the plants. For all the signage one puts up, some people don't pay attention. If Niantic and other mobile developers were quick to respond, there wouldn't be a need for this law to exist.

While the bill did not get the full support of the Illinois legislature, you can bet that it did put game developers on notice to be more aware of where their location-based games take their customers.

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