Scott Dodich and Jayme Gotts-Dodich live on what used to be a “peaceful, quiet, and safe” suburban street directly across a small public park in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. But since Pokémon Go was released July 6, the couple’s quaint neighborhood located outside of Detroit, has turned into “a nightmare,” according to court documents.
The Dodiches filed a class-action lawsuit with the U.S. District Court of Northern California alleging that the augmented reality mobile game’s co-creators— the developer, Niantic software company, Nintendo, the owner, and Pokémon Co., which licenses the game—are responsible for player trespassing private property and threatening homeowners in pursuit of catching Pokemon.
The residents of Revere Street had their lawns trampled. They were yelled at for calling the police, according to the complaint, and were threatened by players visiting the popular Pokéstop and Pokégym or hangout in nearby Wahby Park. Players also peered into the windows of residents’ homes, hiding in bushes after dark to wait out the police.
Pokémon Go players “are on our lawns . . . looking right into our windows to catch a Pokémon,” the Dodiches said in the complaint. As residents “[we] don’t feel safe sitting on our porch.”
The problem stems from the GPS map Niantic created for a previous sci-fi game, Ingress, which designated locations as “exotic matter” — now called Pokéstops for Pokémon Go. The maps closely correlate and Pokemon Go players have been using the Ingress map to catch more Pokemon. Niantic has been criticized for its map because it leaves out minority-dense neighborhoods.
Jayme Gotts-Dodich wrote and email to Niantic CEO John Hanke to explain the “havoc” the game has caused in their neighborhood:
The past few weeks have been an absolute nightmare… The stops/gyms border directly on our street, causing the gamers to take over our property as well as the parks. They are on our lawns, with the newest being looking right into our windows. How is this acceptable? They hang out on our lawns, trample landscaping, look in vehicles, hang out in the middle of the street looking at our homes while playing their game, so I hope. We ask them to leave but 75% percent of the time, they ignore us or call us names. . . .
We don’t feel safe having people on our property looking into our home. Nor do we feel safe with random vehicles parking, driving slow, and hanging out on our street. We don’t know who is playing the game, who is looking at our homes to break in or steal, who is a pedophile or rapist. I don’t feel safe sitting on our porch, something we love to do. We have gotten heckled and yelled at for calling the police and we didn’t ever do so. I have been threatened because I asked someone to leave, he said shut up b**** or else. What does or else mean?
Niantic didn’t respond to the email and hasn’t released a statement addressing the lawsuit.
St. Clair Shores Police Chief Todd Woodcox’s office wasn’t available for comment on the number of Pokemon Go related complaints filed with the department.
The Dodiches lawsuit, which represents others “similarly situated,” is the legal culmination of weeks of media and police reports of Pokémon Go players acting inappropriately. Apartment complexes, businesses, museums, cemeteries, and even pop artists have had to issue warnings to players to be respectful.
Injuries to players and bystanders are climbing, and robberies have also been reported. Under pressure from police and regulators, Pokémon Go added new warnings to the game, urging players to pay attention to their surroundings and to not play the game while driving.
The augmented reality game’s popularity has highlighted society’s seemingly lack of preparedness for technology that melds the virtual and tangible. Socially acceptable behaviors such as not being raucous in a cemetery aren’t readily considered by players enthralled by the ability to virtually catch super-powered creatures.
It was only a matter of time before someone sued.