YORK — Bad news for Pokémon Go players, you aren't welcome to hunt for Charmanders at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.
The base has asked Niantic, the company which created the wildly successful Pokémon Go app, to remove all Pokestops from the base and base housing, said Michael Voss, public relations officer at NWS Yorktown. Pokestops are real-world GPS grid coordinates that appear in game as markers inside the application.
The stops give out prizes to players who visit the area and "reactivate" every five minutes or so. Since the game's launch, Pokestops across America have turned formerly low-traffic areas into crowded hangouts that attract dozens of people of all ages.
The game urges and awards exploration, which is fine until you've walked onto a secure government installation. Voss' office notified the public at large via a Facebook post last week, urging players to find literally anywhere else to play the popular game.
"Friends, please refrain from playing or searching for Pokémon Gyms on WPNSTA Yorktown or in the immediate off-base housing areas," the post read. "While we understand the vast popularity of this mobile geo-tracking game featuring pop culture icons, there are hundreds of gyms in the local area that do not involve possible mission impact to our nation's military."
The issue started cropping up when people started visiting Nelson Chapel in the base housing area, Voss said. People playing the game look indistinguishable from people taking pictures on their smartphones, and because photography is strictly forbidden on base, that caused issues.
"There's kids that play over there, there's kids that play in the housing, so it's just a safety concern," Voss said. "It actually didn't have too much to do with uniform personnel at all."
The people walking around looking into their phones resulted in complaints, which led to increased patrols by base police, Voss said. He said having naval personnel run extra patrols to question people playing a smartphone game wasn't something the base command could tolerate.
"We asked (Niantic) to remove the locations from the base and they wrote back saying they would," Voss said. Though the game itself isn't forbidden on base yet, Voss added, people still shouldn't play it out in the open.
"Again, you're not allowed to take pictures on base," he said, saying anybody who looked like they were would more than likely be stopped and questioned. He added any further restrictions would be up to the base commander.
"Current regulations have not changed regarding the Pokémon Go app," Watson said. She added that base authorities understand the situation with the app as well as the importance of ensuring the safety of the people who live and work on the two bases.