Hey, have you heard about that new game Pokemon Go that's sweeping the world? Of course you have! It's almost impossible to avoid! Everywhere you go, people are staring at their phones, occasionally swiping the screen and then rushing off to the next location. But how were those locations chosen in the first place?
If you've played the game, you know that in-game locations like Pokestops and Gyms are tied to real-world places. If you look around, you'll notice these places typically have some sort of cultural significance. In fact, that's the point.
Niantic, the company that makes Pokemon Go, used to be part of Google. A few years ago, Niantic made a game called Ingress, which required players to visit real-world sites and use their phones to claim areas for their side of a worldwide conflict. It's this earlier game that determined the Pokemon Go locations.
Niantic included lots of sites in Ingress by mining geotagged photos of historic and cultural sites on Google. But the company depended heavily on the player base to expand the game. Ingress players could take a photo of a real location that they thought should be part of the game. The photos were geotagged. Niantic staff reviewed the submissions and decided which ones were worthy to be in the game. Gradually, the number of real places with Ingress gameplay increased.
Those same locations serve as the foundation for Pokemon Go. Parks, art installations, museums, theaters, churches and murals serve similar roles in both games. Ideally, players explore beyond their normal hangouts and get a little culture in the process.
Unfortunately, it's not perfectly seamless. Some Pokemon Go locations are close to residences, leaving a few homeowners frustrated as legions of would-be Pokemon champions trample their lawns and flower beds. Some selected cultural spots might not feel it's appropriate (that'd be Washington D.C.'s Holocaust Museum we're talking about), while other spots might not be entirely safe to explore. As the game reminds players, it's important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. But when you're chasing down a MewTwo, that can be tough to remember.