Niantic and Nintendo's smash mobile hit Pokémon Go uses location data to populate the real world with Pokémon, item-dispensing PokéStops and Gyms. The latter two are based on local landmarks, such as churches, pubs, train stations, letter boxes, and parks.
They are not supposed to be private buildings and areas, but some have evidently fallen through the cracks. Boon Sheridan from Holyoke, Massachusetts lives in a converted church which has become one of the game's gyms, resulting in a flock of players gathering outside his house to train and compete for control.
"This should be fascinating," he said in a tweet over the weekend. "I've counted 15 people stopping by and lingering in their phones so far. I think at least three car visits as well," he wrote in another. "I'm working on a sign for the front, something like 'Train well, play with honor, leave as friends' or something equally cornball."
Players won't be required to enter Sheridan's house to access the gym, as they are able to interact with those parts of the game from a short distance. At these gyms players are able to battle for control as part of one of three teams, and then train at the gym's that their own team has possession of.
These locations were determined by Niantic with the help of players of their previous game Ingress – released in 2013 - which was a similar sort of game to Pokémon Go. Players of that game submitted real world locations to be used in a similar fashion to gyms, before Niantic signed off on their use. During this process they presumably mistook Sheridan's house for the church it used to be some 40 years ago.
Sheridan took his home's new-found popularity in good humour, but later became concerned about long-term effects.
"Do I even have rights when it comes to a virtual location imposed on me?" he asked. "Businesses have expectations, but this is my home." He later wondered whether his home's gym status might detract from its value.
Niantic's website allows users to submit issues with Gyms and PokéStops, but because of the game's current enormous popularity they're only dealing with issues in which there is a "present immediate physical danger" such as a location being in the middle of the road or on a train track.