Milwaukee, WI – Say what you will about the Pokemon GO phenomenon, but leave it to government to try and ruin the fun. Milwaukee County is attempting to force the developer of the wildly popular game to get a permit for use of the public parks.
The parks director sent a letter to the CEO of Niantic, referencing a county ordinance that “requires a permit for game play in the public spaces,” according to WISN 12 News.
"We're asking them to submit a permit so that we understand who is the contact (and) how we can get a hold of them if this should get out of hand," [Parks Director John] Dargle said.
Until that permit is obtained, Niantic "must deactivate and remove all Pokemon GO sites, including Poke stops and Gyms within Milwaukee County parks," the letter said.
No reply has been received from Niantic.
Dargle is making the assumption that a virtual game with no physical presence beyond people walking around with their smartphones – which people are doing anyway – is equivalent to a physical game such as volleyball being played at the park.
Authorities say Pokemon GO is operating a “site,” but have not elaborated on exactly what constitutes said site. According to the county statutes, an organization that wishes to hold an event at a public park must obtain a permit. However, Niantic has not sponsored any official Pokemon GO events.
The virtual game simply results in more people doing what people are already doing – walking around looking at their smartphones. There is no actual event and no actual site.
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The demand for a permit application highlights the fact that government’s rules and regulations are not objective, unbiased dictums, but can be arbitrarily interpreted to fit an agenda.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele blamed “more trash” and Pokemon GO players “interfering with other people's ability to enjoy their own park” for their attempt to “get serious” by demanding a permit application.
Other park patrons have reportedly complained about parking and congestion issues. But there does not appear to be a logical explanation as to how an official permit would alleviate these issues when we're talking about a virtual game that anyone plays at any time.
Someone should ask for such an explanation at the public meeting scheduled for Sept. 7 at Lake Park.
Meanwhile, one Pokemon GO player believes things are being blown out of proportion.
"I understand the danger, the worry, the fears behind that, but from what I've seen, everyone plays respectfully here. Everyone's extremely polite, and I don't know why people wouldn't want the parks to be filled with people. That's what parks are made for," said Andres Amaya.
Perhaps the county is simply trying to squeeze some money out of Niantic. Permit applications invariably come with permit fees, and governments are always looking for ways to shake down individuals and businesses.