Sometimes trends make strange bedfellows. Take for example the augmented reality game "Pokémon Go," which over the course of just a few weeks has become a motivational powerhouse, getting people off the sofa and out into the real world. That surge of activity is taking players places they’ve never been, and lots of organizations are paying attention — even ones that aren’t traditionally linked to gaming or technology, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The folks at USFWS noticed Pokémon players flocking to find "digital wildlife" at national wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries and wetlands, and used the opportunity as a teaching moment, showing us the game's real-life counterparts, like this spicebush swallowtail caterpillar:
And this Western diamondback rattlesnake:
And they aren't the only ones getting in on the fun. The National Park Service also noticed "visitors coming to national parks using their phones to look for elusive digital creatures." In this video, Director of the National Park Service Jon Jarvis invites trainers (a person who plays Pokémon) to "look around at the beauty" of the parks and to find more than "just a new virtual companion":
Some national parks are in the wilderness or mountains, and they don't offer Wi-Fi. But Pokémon are popping up in other parks, like Yosemite National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains' Mountain Farm Museum, which boasts three Pokéstops. National Geographic reports: "When found, historical text will pop up on screen, and players can tap an icon to learn more before returning to the game."
Even the steeped-in-tradition Church of England is opening its doors to gamers. "Pokémon Go is giving churches around the country a great opportunity to meet people from their area who might not normally come to church," the church said in a statement. And the BBC reports that "church communities have been encouraged to place welcome signs outside and hold so-called 'Pokeparties' for players."
But not all locations are so welcoming. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., which was initially home to three Pokéspots, issued a public statement that said playing "Pokémon Go" "in a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazism is extremely inappropriate." The same goes for Arlington National Cemetery:
So while it's fantastic news that this game is getting people to explore new places, the moral of the story is that players still need to use common sense and have respect for their surroundings.