Kalhan Rosenblatt, Daily Mail, August 9, 2016
A Pokemon Go player has accused the game and its developer Niantic of putting Poke Stops, real-world locations where players get items, in predominately white neighborhoods.
Aura Bogado, an environmental reporter for news outlet Grist, began to notice the issue when the game was released last month.
She said when walking around Long Beach, California, which is 50 per cent white, she noticed there were far more Poke Stops than in her Los Angeles neighborhood, comprised of mainly minorities.
Bogado created the hashtag #mypokehood to crowdsource and document Poke Stop locations.
As results came in, Bogado began to confirm her suspicion that minority-heavy areas had fewer Poke Stops.
This belief was supplemented with data from The Urban Institute think tank.
The Urban Institute researchers found an average of 55 Poke Stops located in neighborhoods that had a majority white population.
In majority black neighborhoods they found an average of 19 Poke Stops.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported similar patterns in African American neighborhoods in Detroit, Miami and Chicago.
In New York, outer boroughs with higher levels of diversity, like Queens and Brooklyn, had significantly fewer Poke Stops than in Manhattan.
However, this disparity may just be the result of the game developer Niantic’s use of a previous game that allowed users to mark real-life locations as in-game battle sites.
‘It turns out Niantic, which makes Pokémon Go, relied on a map from a previous augmented reality game called Ingress, which was crowd-sourced from its mostly male, tech-savvy players
‘The result is a high concentration of PokéStops in commercial and downtown areas of some cities, while there are typically fewer PokéStops in non-white or residential areas, if there are any at all,’ Bogado wrote in a blog post.
The Urban Institute calls the disparity ‘redlining’, which is a term meaning a community that is cut off from essential services due to ethnic make up or race.
Because their are fewer stops in these neighborhoods, residents find it more difficult to play and participate in the game.
‘We now have a game where it looks like people who are already disadvantaged are playing it, now also are the more likely candidates who have to pay to play it,’ Bogado told USA Today.
Niantic is not the first to show a racial disparity in its real-work layout.
When Amazon debuted Amazon Prime, services initially weren’t offered in predominantly black and poor areas.
Google’s high-speed internet service, Fiber, did the same and received criticisms.
‘This is not a new story in terms of a product having some type of–whether intended or unintended–discriminatory effect,’ says Safiya Umoja Noble, professor of information studies and African-American studies at UCLA.
But Niantic’s intent was not to leave out poor or ethnically diverse areas.
Niantic CEO John Hanke told Rolling Stone that Pokémon Go used Ingress’s locations, which were user submitted.
However, Ingress’s main user base was mostly white, young and English-speaking, according to informal surveys of the community in 2013 and 2014.
This caused the areas where Poke Stops popped up to reflect that demographic.
Niantic said it wont comment on the Poke Stop disparity until the game has been launched worldwide. Then Poke Stops will be looked at more thoroughly.