French mayor tries to ban Pokemon Go from his village, believes it to be ‘contagious’

Mayor Fabrice Beauvois of Bressolles, Ain in eastern France has issued a decree to Pokemon Go developer Niantic and publisher The Pokemon Company, demanding the game’s landmarks and creatures be removed from his village.

Located northeast of Lyon, Bressolles is home to about 800 residents and at least one Pokemon Go landmark, reportedly based on a local war memorial. Beauvois believes the game is “contagious,” poses a “dangerous addiction” to young people, and may “result in groups of people forming at night.” The mayor told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he believes it is his “responsibility to ensure public tranquility and order” by ordering Pokemon Go out of his town.

Because Pokemon Go bases its in-game hotspots based on real life landmarks (many of them ported over from developer Niantic’s previous map-based game, Ingress), many public areas, government buildings and memorial sites have experienced an unexpected uptick in foot traffic since the game’s launch last month. Beauvois is not the first to complain about the intrusion: custodians of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, have successfully petitioned Niantic to turn their sites into Pokemon dead zones, and the developer says it is “moving quickly to review and address all such requests.” Bressolles is reportedly the first French municipality to order the game completely removed from its “territory.”

“When a cafe or a restaurant owner wants to open a business in any French town, they have an obligation to request prior authorization to the mayor,” Beauvois told the Associated Press. “It applies to Niantic as well, even though their settlement is virtual. […] They use the entire planet as a playground.”

On the one hand, it’s definitely silly to liken Pokemon Go to some kind of contagion, despite its widespread popularity. On the other hand, it’s not hard to understand Mayor Beauvois’s point of view: when Ingress players identified and claimed these local landmarks as in-game hotspots beginning in 2012, they did so with the understanding that Ingress’s playerbase was relatively small and not likely to cause a public disturbance, even during large-scale events. Now those same landmarks are in Pokemon Go, and there are a lot more people visiting them — probably many more than anyone might have predicted, when an Ingress player decided a couple years ago that a local war memorial would make a nice portal.

Editors on the village's Wikipedia page have also reacted to the mayor's decree.

Editors on the village’s Wikipedia page have also reacted to the mayor’s decree.

So you can hardly blame a small town mayor from objecting to the perceived invasion of this largely invisible phenomenon, even if the language he uses is the kind we’re used to hearing about games’ corrupting influence on children and the public order or whatever. Whether a mayor can successfully block the game from an entire municipality on behalf of his residents is another question, though. Beauvois doesn’t “own” Bressolles, so unless he can prove every one of his constituents want the game gone, I somehow doubt Niantic is obligated to honor the request. He freely admits there haven’t been any incidents involving Pokemon Go in his village.

It sure feels like a different and new world these days, at any rate.

(h/t VG247, Associated Press.)