Pokémon Goes to the Museum

Should people play games at cultural  attractions?

Recently, there’s been a surge in the number of visitors at many museums in the United States. People are streaming through their doors to play Pokémon GO, finding the game’s virtual monsters and battling Pokémon. The boost in foot traffic is good for many institutions. But some people think playing the game in museums is disruptive and even disrespectful. 

Pokémon GO is one of the most popular apps of all time. The game overlays a Pokémon digital image onto the image of the player’s real surroundings, as seen through his or her smartphone’s camera. To select locations where Pokémon appear, the app connects with the Historical Marker Database—an online catalog of points of interest in the U.S. Since museums and other similar venues appear in the Historical Marker Database, many cultural institutions are part of the game.

Many people applaud Pokémon GO for motivating players to explore local sites—including historic places and museums. Officials at smaller museums embrace the game as a way to attract and engage with people who normally might not visit their galleries. To lure in patrons, the teams at some institutions are even using social media to advertise the Pokémon that can be found on their premises. 

The game has raised some objections as well. People worry that museumgoers glued to their phones, trying to “catch ’em all,” will miss the objects on display around them. The app also directs people to find Pokémon in places some deem inappropriate. Officials at the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, and the 9/11 Memorial, where people go to mourn and reflect on tragic events, have asked visitors to refrain from playing Pokémon GO. Representatives from the Holocaust Museum even requested that the museum be removed from the game. 

What do you think? Should cultural attractions and museums be integrated into virtual games like Pokémon GO?

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