Are you excited for “Pokémon GO?” I’m excited for “Pokémon GO.” Especially after the beta tests launched in the US Wednesday.
Nintendo is making “Pokémon GO” in partnership with a company called Niantic. That company, which started as part of Google but now exists on its own, is best known for a 2012 game called “Ingress.”
Like “Pokémon GO,” “Ingress” is a massively multiplayer augmented reality game for mobile devices that takes users on a kind of treasure hunt through the real world. To play, you go out (yes, literally out your door, just like in “Pokémon GO”) in search of “portals.” Portals show up alongside important places in the real world. It’s a clever, unique concept. And it’s exciting to see in applied to a franchise as popular as Pokémon. The two universes seem perfect for one another.
But it turns out lurking around streets, buildings, and landmarks doing strange things with your phone is a great way to draw unwanted police attention. A number of users took to the web soon after the game’s release to report bad experiences.
Reddit user Eheaubaut started the online conversation when they posted three years ago about a three-hour ordeal with some overzealous cops:
I was out capturing some portals (I live in a medium sized city and only one other person is playing that I noticed, only one portal was taken.). And I walk by the police station and notice that the portal was still free! So I grabbed it. then my phone locked up. I restart it, and load the game back up when a cop noticed me, shouted to me and arrested me. Apparently sitting near a police station for about 5 minutes with a GPS view of the surrounding area with little blue blips on the screen is a red flag. I was in a holding cell for nearly 3 hours explaining to them it’s just a game by google. Strangest night ever.
Edit: So someone pointed out that I was DETAINED, and not Arrested. Sorry for the confusion.
A number of other Redditors replied with similar experiences, including Mooksas, who wrote about a police officer who approached them for playing in an empty parking lot near a post office.
In her essay for the website Piedtype, a self-described “grandma” said she understood why police had stopped her for looking suspicious playing the game.
“Of course I had looked suspicious!” she wrote. “I’d have reported me if I’d seen me hanging around like that. I hadn’t gotten in anyone’s way, hadn’t done anything at all illegal. But still, those city crews were there the whole time; they’d have wondered what I was doing.”
There are many more similar posts online, and likely even more “Ingress” players had encounters they never wrote publicly about.
It’s worth noting that none of these reports have been independently verified, and so far no one seems to have been roughed up or arrested. But “Ingress” is, frankly, a niche game for adventurous tech nerds, not a group known for being especially mistreated or misunderstood by American police.
Niantic did not return a request for comment.