The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan is among many cultural heritage sites around the world pleading to be removed from Pokemon Go. Photo / AP
The creators of augmented reality hit Pokemon Go may want to consider renaming the gaming sensation Pokemon No Go, after they agreed to remove some sensitive real-world locations to stop gamers trampling over sacred sites.
Several locations, including The Anzac Memorial in Sydney, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. have asked to be removed from the massively popular game, reported news
Meanwhile, a US investigation has found “Poke Stops”, featuring characters such as Pikachu and Growlithe, have cropped up outside the homes of sex offenders leading to worries about the safety of Pokemon players.
Using the smartphone GPS, Pokemon Go has an in-game map reflecting locations in the real world, which have been tailored for certain purposes in the game.
This format has received praise as it encourages players to be active, offering a range of health and fitness benefits.From capturing a wild Charmander in a park to visiting a local landmark to restock on PokeBalls, the game encourages people to explore their real-life neighbourhoods.
However, the geolocation feature of the game has also led people to absent-mindedly walk into traffic, find themselves in the middle of armed robberies or wander where they’re not wanted.
In Victoria, signs have appeared alongside major highways warning drivers to pay attention to their driving while playing after characters popped up on dashboards and by the side of main roads.
The Saturday Telegraph revealed Pokémon Go is telling users to catch characters inside places of worship, on busy intersections and even at notorious Sydney suicide spot The Gap.
Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott said the game’s Japanese creators, Niantic, had been asked remove a “Poke-Stop” at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park.
Pokémon characters also hover at the centre of the memorial waiting to be caught.
“[It] is a space of quiet contemplation and it is not appropriate for Pokémon players to be ‘lured’ inside to catch Pokémons,” Mr Elliott said.
“Large numbers of Pokémon players have entered the memorial since the game’s release on April 6, forcing security guards to remind players that they are in a commemorative area.”
Characters are also found at the Cenotaph in Martin Place, the King’s Park war memorial in Perth and in the middle of Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral.
Last week, the company faced calls to take action after a mourner at a cemetery in Prince George, Canada, became upset when gamers interrupted her as she visited her father’s grave.
Kym Gouchie told Canada’s CBC that she encountered dozens of Pokémon players traipsing through the Lheidli T’enneh First Nations burial ground.
To have a PokéStop there and to have people searching around in the burial grounds is absolutely absurd in my mind and very disrespectful.
“To have a PokéStop there and to have people searching around in the burial grounds is absolutely absurd in my mind and very disrespectful,” she said.
The Pokémon Company’s consumer marketing director J.C. Smith said in an interview this week that they’re updating the game so it remains fun for players but respects the real world.
“When something is really popular, we have to figure out the most respectful way to deal with it and make sure that everyone is playing safely and doing things in a respectful manner,” said Smith.
“It’s only been two weeks since it launched, and there’s been so much attention and so many people playing that it’s tough to think of all the ways it could affect the world.
“For us, we’re making sure the play experience is done right. We’re looking at features in the game and how to finetune them so that it’s appealing to the fans but also respectful of the private institutions that are affected by it,” he said.
Smith wouldn’t offer a timeline of when updates will come to the game.
Pokémon Go developer Niantic offers an online form to request exclusions, but changes to the game are not automatic.
For some sensitive locations, change has already come to Pokémon Go. US Holocaust Memorial Museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger said the museum had been removed from the game, as it requested.
However, in an alarming discovery, Pokémon Go has also been found to inadvertently lure its young players to the homes of “high-level” sexual predators, the New York Post reports.
A US report revealed that the cute cartoon creatures are popping up in front of the homes of registered sex offenders across New York.
“Unfortunately, Pokémon Go has opened up a door to sexual predators,” said Bronx Democratic Senator Jeff Klein.
Investigators visited the homes of 100 sex offenders who committed “heinous” crimes against children – or who were convicted of possessing child pornography – and found Pokémon characters popped up directly in front 57 per cent of the time.
The sex offenders are either on parole or probation and are not permitted within 300 metres of a school.
The report found “PokéStops” and “gyms” – where players can train their Pokémon – within a half-block radius of convicted paedophiles’ residences 59 per cent of the time.
A Pokémon-related item appeared near residences of the sex offenders 73 per cent of the time, according to the investigation.
Players of the game can also use a “lure” at a PokéStop to attract Pokémon characters to a specific location, which the senator feared could be used by sexual predators to bait children to a certain area.
“A sexual predator who downloads this game holds a guide in their hands – a virtual road map to hunt down their prey,” Klein told the Post.
Along with following Democratic Senator Diane Savino, Klein is planning to introduce new legislation to protect children from encountering sex predators while playing the game.
“The one thing we know about sexual predators is they gravitate towards opportunities that give them access to their victims. So they are going to use this in a way to lure their victims to them,” Savino said.