Responsible Game Development

I, like most I suspect, have seen lots of news surrounding Pokemon Go in the last week. I haven’t personally seen the game and I don’t really know much about it. My assumption is that at its core there’s some map data and some Pokemon characters that are randomly placed on the map.

If the above is a reasonably assumption I have to wonder about the level of responsibility the developers and organisation have taken.

I have read a variety of stories this week with regards to calls to emergency services for stolen Pokemon, children walking on dual carriage ways (speed limit of 70mph here), children lost in a mine 100ft underground and now this evening Bosnia warnings users of the game not to walk into minefields!!!

If my sat nav in the car can approximate I am on a road, why would you develop and app which would allow children to enter areas of obvious danger? Why would you entice them with virtual rewards?

I don’t imagine this was the idea behind the original concept but I would like to think that people in this position of power through manipulation of children would do more, a lot more to help protect them.

When I next write out an idea for a game I am going to ensure that I make my responsibilities towards my fellow human beings a critical feature. I doubt anything I make will ever have that volume of following, but simple things like a message that says “You’very been playing for 15 minutes now, how about taking a break?”… and so on…

Thoughts and opinions welcomed… :slight_smile:


My 18 year old Step daughter got stranded with a flat car battery chasing Pokemon!

As always, I blame the parents :wink:

It encourages exploration, which I like and did a lot of when I was younger but I am not sure the world is the same as it was ‘cough cough’ in my day

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Hey @Paul_Land, oh dear, I hope she got herself sorted without too much hassle.

I would have thought that it would be fairly easy, albeit more effort, to make a game like that where by it would not put the characters on roads, underground (I doubt it did this one anyway), on rail tracks and the like. They must have hundreds of websites out there that are supporting/promoting this game and you’d think that there would be an FAQ somewhere that people would be reading to try and find out how they can find more of the characters… that to me would seem like a very sensible place to put a message that says “We dont put them on roads, or underground, or in caves, or on railway tracks, or in mine fields…!” - I probably sound really old myself, but I really don’t want to read on the BBC news website that one or more children got killed looking for these virtual characters…

When you are in a position to reach out to sooo many people I believe there is a moral obligation/responsibility that goes with that.


i think you’ve hit the nail on the head @rob

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Good question! I think this is the sort of thing where iterative development would come into play. Probably the designers just had the idea “Hey, let’s design a game where players go find Pokemon in the real world! That sounds like fun!” And now you have issues like those you described that they may not have even thought of. This should entice the developers to go back and refactor the game to address these issues.

So yes, I do believe game designers have some responsibility to develop their games to not cause harm to the player. On the other hand, the ability to predict every single way your game can be abused before starting development would basically require you to be a clairvoyant (in which you could get rich off of those talents and not need a job. :wink: )

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Thabks :slight_smile:

It feels to me with this game as an example specifically that there is probably a big corporate issue behind it… for example you don’t need to be clairvoyant (I had trouble spelling that!!, if only I’don’t known! :wink: ) to know that Pokémon = kids and railway lines = trains… and kids and railway lines = bad…

To make more changes will cost them more money for development. If that doesn’t = more money for Mr Big Corporation why bother? As a percentage of users what would 1 dead child represent? For me, what ever the percentage it would be far too much. Even bad news gets the product mentioned more in the news and social media, so everyone becomes aware of it… no bad press syndrome etc.

There are a lot of games where I think you could get away without doing anything and things would be pretty much OK… Pac-Man never encouraged me to go around eating yellow pills, although I’m sure a quick Google search may produce results where people have… and then tried to sue… Space Invaders never encouraged me to blast UFOs out of the sky, at worst I spent too.many hours in front of a TV, which often on boxed games is now mentioned (fits and the like)… Pokémon is a bit different, it’s encouraging kids out into the big wide world, which obviously can be a great thing, but there needs to be some constraints…

If you were designing a new family car you’d probably include seat belts and air bags right? Because we have learnt these are good things to have and are expected by customers, regardless of whether you know an accident will happen. Perhaps “safety” and “gaming” hasn’t faced these kind of challenges in the past? Perhaps… excluding those where communications are available with other players via the net…

I don’t personally know much about map data, but I would have thought that roads were able to be distinguished, and I’d like to think rivers… I appreciate farms, factories, power stations may be more difficult… but perhaps not utterly impossible…

Great question. I have played it, I am to old and got bored fast but I can help clarify some details. You have battle arenas. They are generally public areas, in my case as I live in a small village bordering a town, they are village halls, youth centre.

The problem lies with the poke stops . This is where you go to get bonus items, but also balls. If you want to play the game for free you need them and poke stops dole them out at a very slow rate…

But these stops are derived from places of interest on Google maps. In an urban environment a museum, church, memorial. ( Japanese atomic bomb memorial site if you read the news).

In the country these can be abandoned buildings with history, canals heritage sites. Theoretically good clean fun. But as always and to strengthen your point also very indiscriminate.

I have mixed views about the whole thing so I just wanted to share what I know for facts on the game. I think personally it’s a good idea and much needed for a younger generation who have lost the ability to see the fun in a field some friends and an old tree, but it has been implemented without much responsible thought IMHO.

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hmmm… places of interest… that’s good and bad I guess… good to try and get some interest from the youngsters in these places, but bad if it’s a memorial or something that requires a bit more respect that perhaps may be given.

Regarding the fun in a field, be nice if that could be returned a bit without an electronic device though! :slight_smile: bikes, scooters, balls, hiding seek, running, jumping, fishing in streams… I sound as old as I feel now… hehe…

Great response Simon and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts :slight_smile:

Hehe, one of these spots was on a graveyard here in my area. Hordes of youngsters ran riot over it…

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erk! Just doesn’t seem right to me… and whilst I could go on about how the kids should know better, being that they’ll be all of ages I think there’s a huge amount of responsibility that should lay with the creators of the game. It’s been in the news most days since it’s release!

Sounds like a good thing in this case–a minor incident that turned into a learning opportunity. As Larry Niven said, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” It was things like that (in MY day, not game related) that taught me to gas up even if the tank were half full, for example.

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I’ve been playing Pokemon Go for a little while now, it has some nostalgia for me, as I was 11 when pokemon red came out.

Most of the times you hear about people going places they shouldn’t, to catch pokemon, that is sheer stupidity in the case of those old enough to know better on the players part, or ignorance if they are too young.

I just opened it on my phone and caught a pokemon that was showing up behind the building across the street.
I am sitting at my desk at work, its 20 feet from me to the front of my building, another 10 feet to the edge of the road. The road is approximately 35 feet wide (3 lanes, one way road), and its another 35 feet to the back of that building across the street.
So, sitting at my desk, I caught a pokemon that showed up on the map in a spot that is approximately 100 feet (30.5 meters) away from me.
If a pokemon appears on your screen, no matter how far away it appears to be, you can catch it without moving an inch.

So there is no logical reason why people are tresspassing, walking into the middle of streets, or on rail lines, to catch pokemon.

As someone else mentioned, pokestops and gyms are a different story.
The makers of this game made another game years ago, Ingress. its another AR game, and they developed a database of “landmarks” over the years with input from historical registries, wikipedia, and its users.
These landmarks are anything from buildings famous from tv (The house from Breaking Bad), to museums, churches, libraries, artwork like statues or murals on the side of buildings, parks, schools, memorials, notable locations, etc.
When they made pokemon go, they used the same database. They dont use all of the landmarks from the ingress game, but it seems that they do use a majority of them.

Like catching pokemon, you dont actually have to be right on top of the spot. Theres about a 50’ radius circle around it in which you can access it. So again, part of the problem is lack of common sense on the player.

Now, if dangerous places, like mine fields, military bases, and such aren’t blocked by the game, then I would say there is negligence on the part of the developer.
Other than that, its entirely the players fault, and the players parents fault in the case of young kids.


Hey Rob,

I played quite a bit of Pokemon Go when it first came out. It has a lot of very interesting innovations and I recommend trying it out with a bike and a notepad because it is a game worth taking notes on if you design games.

As for humane design, the developers have taken a lot of steps in harm prevention. There are safety messages whenever you start the app now, along with other safety measures. They have been making safety improvements since it came out. They also designed their micro-transactions in a way I definitely approve, rather than the usual amoral whale targeting we usually see from free-to-play.

As for how it places pokémon, you can find them just about anywhere and different pokémon in different locations. My city is overrun by Zubats. Fish pokémon can be found near water. Most, however, can be found in parks and reserves.

All this isn’t to say that the game is perfect. They dumbed down the game under the silly idea that most people aren’t smart enough for pokémon.

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I am almost tempted to install it, but I know that if I do I will invariably be dragged in to another “I have to check it every day” kind of game (like Clash of Clans and Age of Empires: Castle Siege), and there are only so many hours in day…

…ok, and yes, I admit it, I am weak minded and will not be able to put it down :smiley:

Might give it a go and limit it’s use to 2 days just for the sake of more thorough “reviewing” :wink:

I’m not sure how “responsible” it is to market a game to kids that encourages the use of black magic, but that’s how things are. “It’s not real and the kids love it, so why not?”

I take the opposite view. I don’t believe the developers need to assume responsibility in this regard. If anything, you’re just highlighting potential improvements that could be made to the game, and areas where a competitor could still come in with a slightly better product.

It’s a game. Players choose to play it.

If I were to make simple “spin the bottle” app for the iPhone, I really don’t think a direct line of responsibility can be traced back to me for any poor decisions that its users may make. If use of this app somehow turned out to have a direct corellation to a rise in teen pregnancy, I really don’t think it would be right to blame the app developer.

I’m not sure how far I would have to go with this app before I would assume any such responsibility can be traced back to me. Experience points for frequent usage? Cute emoticons and playful sound effects? Daily rewards? Inappropriate suggestions? A rating feedback system? At one point do you say, this is too much – the developer is now responsible for encouraging/causing these activities?

There’s a Run Zombie Run game that generates “waypoints” that you walk to and rewards you for reaching it within a certain time frame. It doesn’t have some advanced AI to determine what’s over there. It’s not encouraging you to go anywhere in paritcular. It’s just generating a waypoint a certain distance ahead of you. “The app made me to do” it hardly an excuse for trespassing.

If there’s an app that let’s you “drop flags” at places you’ve visited, and people get very territorial with their flags and this leads to violence and increase gang warfare, I don’t believe the the creator of the “flag dropper app” has committed any ethical infringements in promoting this app – the cause of the violence is solely in the hands of those who perpetrated it.

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