Has it already been a year since Milwaukee’s picturesque Lake Park was invaded, trampled, and—gasp—used by hordes of folks playing Pokemon Go? Yes, yes it has. Since those dark, damaging days (pictures of which can be found here, under “Attachments”), Milwaukee County officials have tried to quell the naturally quelling Poke-tides, asking developers to remove PokeStops from the park, holding contentious and thoroughly ridiculous (on both sides) community meetings, passing an ordinance that would require permits for virtual and location-based augmented reality games, and, finally, getting sued for passing an ordinance that would require permits for virtual and location-based augmented reality games. Also, remember when people played Pokemon Go?
Anyway, the aforementioned lawsuit, filed in April by developers of a virtual poker game called Texas Rope ‘Em, isn’t going Milwaukee’s way. According to The Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Court judge J.P. Stadtmueller issued a preliminary injunction Thursday, barring Milwaukee County from enforcing its Poke-inspired ordinance. Why? Some zingers from Stadtmueller’s ruling include:
“Here, the Ordinance is revealed for its strangeness and lack of sophistication. The Ordinance treats game developers like Candy Lab as though they are trying hold an ‘event’ in a Milwaukee County park. However, this misunderstands the nature of the problem, since Candy Lab’s video game will not be played at a discrete time or location within a park. Requiring Candy Lab to secure insurance, portable restrooms, security, clean-up, and provide a timeline for an ‘event’ is incongruent with how Texas Rope ‘Em (or any other mobile game) is played.”
“Forcing a square peg in a round hole demonstrates a true lack of tailoring, much less ‘narrow’ tailoring designed to address the County’s interests as they might be affected by Candy Lab. Rather than prohibit publication of the game itself, the County could address its concerns by directly regulating the objectionable downstream conduct. This might include aggressively penalizing gamers who violate park rules or limiting gamers to certain areas of the park. Such measures would assuage the alleged evils visited upon the parks by gamers while stifling less expression than the Ordinance does.”
The ordinance was spearheaded by Milwaukee County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman. He is unfazed by Stadtmueller’s ruling.
“I understand the federal judge’s injunction on this law right now, and I’m looking forward to a trial date on this issue,” Wasserman tells Milwaukee Record. “From what I’m being told by the lawyers, this really is a groundbreaking case. We are the only municipality in the nation that has enacted a law involving virtual reality.
“I’ve also been told by the lawyers that this case is getting so hot, and that it brings up so many constitutional questions, that this has the potential to go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The Poke-controversy was touched off last summer when it was revealed that Milwaukee County Parks had written a letter to the developer of Pokemon Go, Niantic, Inc., asking for the removal of PokeStops from Lake Park. The park had become a hugely popular destination for Pokemon Go players, much to the chagrin—and sometimes outright hostility—of neighbors. Trash, parking issues, lack of bathrooms, trampled landscapes, and neighbors threatened with violence were just a few of the problems that arose. (Again, pictures can be found here, under “Attachments.”) In October, a handful of Lake Park PokeStops were indeed removed. The contentious ordinance, aimed at both Pokemon Go and future Pokemon Go-like games, was passed the following February. Also, remember when people played Pokemon Go?
“We have some of the best parks in the country, and we need to protect them,” Wasserman says. “We need this law to protect the parks and we need to protect the citizens.”