RIP: Rest In Pokemon (Yep, It's OK to Play in Cemeteries)

There are some who feel that cemeteries should be treated as sacred places and should be exempt from the Pokemon experience. There are others who feel that they want to catch a Pokemon right now.


Pokemon Go has become an inescapable force. It’s difficult to step outside without bumping into someone playing the augmented reality game, even in cemeteries. There are some who feel that these memorial parks should be treated as sacred places and should be exempt from the Pokemon experience. But Keith Eggener, author of the book Cemeteries and Marion D. Ross Distinguished Professor of Architectural History at the University of Oregon, says Pokemon Go is just the latest complaint in a larger trend, which is seeking to bring new life to cemeteries.

The thing is Pokemon Go is honestly at the late edge of a trend that’s been ongoing now for probably 20 years in a a lot of places. People have been going back to cemeteries for quite a while for a lot of reasons,” he says.

Overnight, Pokemon Go changed the way many people gather. Now, players are moving away from their couches, out the door, and to places where they my not have been before. Pokemon Go has to be played out in the real world, which has made places of note (e.g. historical landmarks, churches, government buildings, parks, and cemeteries) become places were players gravitate to in order to fill-up on in-game items or battle rival teams.

[Here’s a great introductory piece on Pokemon Go if you have yet to get up to speed.]

These places have become bustling meet-up spots where Pokemon Go players sit and hang out, or at least make a point to pass by. This transformation has been both a blessing and a curse for some places. Many small businesses have used Pokemon Go to increase sales, either by setting lures at nearby PokeStops to draw-in customers or giving out special Pokemon-related promos.

But many are starting to complain that cemeteries should be a no Pokemon Go playing zone. But if we consider the historical significance of cemeteries, we see they used to be full of recreation.

“They were quite important spaces for recreation as well,” Eggener said in a past interview with The Atlantic. “Keep in mind, the great rural cemeteries were built at a time when there weren't public parks, or art museums, or botanical gardens in American cities. You suddenly had large pieces of ground, filled with beautiful sculptures and horticultural art. These places became so popular that not only were guidebooks issued to guide visitors, but also all kinds of rules were posted.”

It was when people stopped dying at home in the mid 20th century, there was this shift in attitudes about death. Memorial parks would only be visited during funerals or during special dates. Likewise, people also became drawn to other points of interest. “We had museums and civic parks and things like that to go to instead,” Eggener says. “So, a lot of the old functions of cemeteries that were more social and more cultural functions that cemeteries filled as gathering places and ornaments of the city were no longer required of them.”

But over the past 20 years, people have been drawn back to these memorial parks for more than just mourning — there’s an entertainment value. “If you look at a cemetery like Spring Grove in Cincinnati, Wisconsin for 10, 15 years now they’ve had a calendar that’s just filled with actives from dog walking to concerts to weddings to botanical walks and historical walks, midnight flashlight ghost tours — things like that,” Eggener says.

These attractions have also received their fair share of complains. “Sometimes people have written-in about these things to their local newspapers and people find that these things are offensive or it’s a disrespectful use of the property, but then, at the same time, there’s an awful lot of people who like it.”

Eggener suggests that there needs to be a negotiation between communities—communities of survivors, local land owners, residents, cemetery management, and so on. It would be best if a common ground could be reached.

“Personally, I don’t have a problem with people playing Pokemon Go in a cemetery, so long as it’s not done in a vulgar way,” Eggener’s says. “After all, cemeteries have almost always been as much a place for the living as they are for the dead.”

It’s when people play Pokemon Go in places that are sacred for a lot of people — places built for reflection, like Auschwitz or Arlington cemetery, where people should put away their phones and pay their respects.

Stand up against religious discrimination – even if it’s not your religion

As religious diversity increases in the United States, we must learn to channel religious identity into interfaith cooperation.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Religious diversity is the norm in American life, and that diversity is only increasing, says Eboo Patel.
  • Using the most painful moment of his life as a lesson, Eboo Patel explains why it's crucial to be positive and proactive about engaging religious identity towards interfaith cooperation.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

Where the evidence of fake news is really hiding

When it comes to sniffing out whether a source is credible or not, even journalists can sometimes take the wrong approach.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • We all think that we're competent consumers of news media, but the research shows that even journalists struggle with identifying fact from fiction.
  • When judging whether a piece of media is true or not, most of us focus too much on the source itself. Knowledge has a context, and it's important to look at that context when trying to validate a source.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less