26 Jul Pokemon Go at Work? Yes!
It’s been an interesting week for the park service thanks to Pokemon Go. Another LHIP intern has joined me at the Intermountain Regional Office, Cory, and we were immediately put into the chaos of this new app. Our supervisors and even other employees in our office were asking us about our “expertise” in the game to clear up some of their confusion. What’s a Pokemon? Why are people awkwardly walking around staring at their phones? What’s the buzz? It turns out the park service has had an interesting experience with it so far. While folks in Washington D.C. are embracing the trend to get people out and exploring monuments, other larger parks are having trouble with controlling the public’s Pokemon Go adventures which have led off trail and into restricted zones. The National Park Service oversees not only parks but also monuments, cultural zones, and heritage sites. With that being said, the implications of Pokemon Go vary drastically from site to site. As the millennials of the office, we had been tasked to find the good, bad and possible approaches the NPS can use to best embrace our mission while dealing with this Pokemon Go phenomena. As an intern and one of the youngest people at our office, it’s been fascinating to see the mixed reactions to the game itself. While we have some more trendy folks in IT playing the game every hour, there are others in Visitor Protection that really dislike it and think it’s distracting to what our national parks are supposed to represent. What do I think? Personally, I think it’s a super innovative way to get people out of their homes, out of their offices, or just outdoors in general to explore new sites and socialize. It’s an icebreaker. People are stepping outside to catch Pokemon but in the mix are exploring new paths and finding others who share a love for the game. And it’s not just my friends in their early 20’s who find a nostalgic connection playing, it’s the kids in high school on summer break, it’s the adults talking a break from their 9 to 5 jobs, it’s the parents with kids finding a way to connect and bond, and it’s even the older generation that heard about the buzz and is figuring out the adventure for themselves. I do believe there are safety precautions to be taken just like any other activity or online game. People should be aware of what sites their stepping –not just at a national park but in neighborhood where you might be stepping onto private property or a culturally sensitive zone like a church or museum. Parents should be alert of their kids playing and not just let them wander out into the streets; go out and play with them! There has been an ongoing American issue of child obesity and the general public not being as active as they should. If it takes Pokemon Go to get people outside, by all means use the excuse! It’s quite clever and revolutionary. Niantic really used the concept of geocaching to their advantage in combinations with the old but loved game of Pokemon. My only critiques are that they should have worked with a federal identity such as the Department of Interior or Homeland Security to ensure the locations used are appropriate and okay with business owners, home owners, and other property owners. While we are adapting and attempting to use it in the most positive light, it has come quite abruptly to some and it would have nice to been given a quick heads up! In result of this chaos, we ended up producing this document to send out to our region from our Office of Interpretation & Education. We hope to continue to track some of the use of Pokemon Go at our parks and what the long term implications of this and other technological innovations mean for our overall park mission. And yes, we did indeed go out and around our building to catch some Pokemon. I finally downloaded the game for “work” purposes and it turns out there are two Pokestops at our building which the guards aren’t too happy about it seeing that we are level 4 security building. Just don’t drive by or loiter at our building trying to catch Pokemon –you might get approached by our guards about your sketchy behavior. From Colorado, Isabel