The Scrapbook knew it was inevitable—no phenomenon can command headlines the way the Pokémon Go craze has in recent weeks without someone coming up with a social justice angle of attack. And last week, the Washington Post found it.
Referencing an Urban Institute study, the Post offered "A look at the racial divide of Pokémon Go in D.C." When players call up the game on their smartphones, to go hunting for the little cartoon characters, the real-life locations they see on the map "are found primarily in predominantly white neighborhoods across the country." As a result, "communities lose the benefits that could come with diverse groups of people interacting with one another while playing the game."
While social justice isn't really one of the game's goals (ask any of your twentysomething relatives for a full explanation of how the game is played), the article missed an obvious point, which one of the many commenters—"KMRA"—quickly pointed out.
"Congratulations—you absolutely failed to do the relevant research on how the portal maps were created for Ingress." (Ingress was an earlier exploration game created by Niantic Labs, the makers of Pokémon Go.) "The majority of portals were submitted by players (other than monuments and locations on the historical register). The player base for Ingress is biased towards adult, middleclass nerds, the majority of whom are white (not all by a long shot, by the way).
"All those beautiful murals in the game? Cool architectural features and random statues? Those are all player submitted, not [created] by Niantic. Should submissions be opened for Pokémon Go, so there can be more Ingress and Pokémon stops in other areas? Absolutely. But making this an issue of the company intentionally leaving people out is ridiculous and makes it blatantly obvious you couldn't be bothered to learn how the map was made."
The Post's reporter apparently didn't bother to read too deeply into the Urban Institute's report, which itself observes: "Ingress used to allow players to suggest relevant portal locations in their areas, but because Ingress players tended to be younger, English-speaking men, and because Ingress's portal criteria [was biased in favor of] business districts and tourist areas, it is unsurprising that portals ended up in white majority neighborhoods."
The Scrapbook understands that in the modern world of digital journalism, reporters have to feed the content beast . . . but at least read all the way to the bottom of the report next time.