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Milwaukee County Officials Propose Permit Requirement For Augmented Reality Game Developers

Game Developers Would Need To Obtain Permit Through County If Game Uses County Parks

Person playing Pokémon Go
Hau Dinh/AP Photo

Milwaukee County officials want to require developers of augmented or virtual reality games to obtain a permit from the county if the game requires players to use public parks.

Virtual and augmented reality games, such as Pokémon Go, exploded in popularity earlier this year. That resulted in some tense moments between residents near popular parks and game players. Milwaukee County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman said game developers who want to use public parks as part of their game play should need a permit from the county.

“We need change,” Wasserman said. “We need it now. We can’t go through another year like that because games are coming, communities are going to be disturbed and players are going to be taken advantage of. We just need a logical framework for everybody to be happy and for a win for all involved.”

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But not everyone thinks a permit should be required, like Tanya Joosten, the director of eLearning Research and Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Joosten said developers shouldn’t need permits to use public spaces. She said they, too, share residents’ concerns about overcrowding because it hurts the players’ experience.

“I think developers placing parts of the game in those geographic locations was very strategic on their part,” Joosten said. “They’re also gathering information and gathering feedback to consistently update the game and potentially change some of those activities and where they’re geographically located.”

Wasserman said the developers must be held accountable for increased traffic in public areas but players of the game won’t be affected.

He said the costs of obtaining and enforcing the permits have yet to be decided.

If passed, the law would go into effect beginning in January.