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Does it matter that Twitch streamers are spoofing their locations for Pokemon Go?

Spoofing your location certainly goes against the basic spirit of the game - but is it really that bad?

If you take a look at the Pokemon Go Twitch channel, you may notice something slightly strange going on. Quite a few of those live stream players aren't hoofing it to PokeStops or Gyms or even driving to any locations.

In fact, they seem to be sitting comfortably in front of their computers, and not outside holding a cell phone or tablet at all...

When a developer releases a game entirely based around getting people to go outside and physically find locations to nab digital creatures, it probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that gamers will figure out workarounds.

That's what has already happened with Pokemon Go just over a week after official launch, with Twitch streams bringing to light the issue of players sitting on their butts exploting GPS spoofing while using an app specifically meant to be accessed outside.

Pokemon Go Glitches, Spoofs, And Exploits

There are actually several glitches and bugs in the game that have yet to be resolved that can lead to accidental cheating.

I've personally seen an interesting instance where a player was in a basement with spotty reception, causing the game to glitch out as it searched for a nearby cell tower. Without even trying, this player's avatar suddenly switched to a different area entirely and then worked its way back to his actual position.

Other than these bugs causing issues, there are much more obvious and clear-cut examples of cheating, as we're frequently seeing on Twitch right now. What we have going on here is GPS spoofing, and it can be done either from your phone or a computer.

How does it work? Essentially the cheater is convincing the game that his device is actually at a completely different location – say an area where rare Pokemon are known to be available. After picking up anything found there, the game then walks your avatar back to your home location, letting you fight at Gyms or pick up even more Pokemon all the along the way.

Spoofing isn't the only method of cheating going on right now though, as one Twitch user uploaded a profile called Pokemon Go Hack that leads to a tool for quickly getting items and leveling Pokemon... without resorting to any in-app purchases.

In another instance of using technology to defy a game's expectations, there have also been reports of players attaching their devices to a drone and then flying to hard-to-reach areas. With that much effort put in, can droning to a PokeStop really be considered cheating?

Does Cheating Affect The Pokemon Go Experience?

On the one hand, who really cares if someone is spoofing to find Pokemon? It's not like it particularly diminishes your Pokemon Go experience if some Twitch streamer in Germany decided to be lazy.

Although there is a communal element to it, Pokemon Go isn't particularly a competitive game, so it's not a huge deal if someone you don't know nabs a rare Pokemon you don't have.

On the other hand, cheating is actually against both Twitch's and Pokemon Go's official policies, so it shouldn't be too surprising in the ban hammer gets dropped, and there's just something about GPS spoofing that goes completely against the spirit of the game.

There is another potentially important issue to consider: people in rural areas who are unable to reach different locations to find more varied Pokemon. If your town only has a handful of PokeStops and you don't have the ability to freely travel, you can't really play this game as it was intended. Spoofing seems more than fair for folks who are cooped up in one location without a lot of Pokemon to be found.


 After catching dozens of these, it may be time to start spoofing...

What Will The Response Be From Niantic?

This isn't the first time a Niantic game has had this exact same location spoofing issue. It already happened with Ingress, another physical location-based game, and Niantic issued mass bans of spoofers in that instance.

Pokemon Go is another Pokeball of wax though, with astronomically bigger numbers of players and a difference in style. Ingress is more focused on team vs. team to begin with, and specifically doesn't want you to be moving around in a vehicle.

What do you think of the spoofing issue? Is it a serious cheating issue that should be dealt with, or is it just something a lazy few are going to engage in that doesn't really matter?

Published Jul. 19th 2016
  • languidlexicon
    Featured Contributor
    I believe the only people who should be gps spoofing are those individuals with disabilities that either make traveling extremely painful, or for those who cannot travel at all. I think the point of P:GO was to get everyone outside and immersed in the sublayer of reality and gaming, but to those unable to participate in the manner able bodied people are, then they should have the ability to do so.
  • Si_W
    It doesn't matter in the slightest unless you are competing with someone, which I don't think you actually are unless there's some kind of leaderboard - I have zero interest in this myself so have no idea how it works.

    It doesn't matter what kind of software you release, someone somewhere (in summertime) will find a way to use it in a way unintended by the developer.

    It's the way of the world these days.

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