The history of Cyprus is an issue in Pokémon Go
Pokémon are banned in a significant part of Cyprus. There’s no physical wall keeping them out – at least not in most areas. But in Pokémon Go, a large area spanning the entire width of the Mediterranean island is still a Pokémon No-Go area thanks to the country’s past.
Before being contacted by Cyprus-based Pokémon Go players, I’ll admit that I’m fairly ignorant of the island’s recent history and how its geography has been eroded by the aftermath of the 1974 Greek-backed coup d’état and subsequent Turkish-led invasion of the country remains shaped.
History lesson aside, the country remains divided by a United Nations buffer zone, a red band on maps that runs through the center of the country. The internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus lies to the north, while to the south lies the larger Greek Cypriot-dominated region of the island. Between the two is the Buffer Zone — an area that sounds like a danger on paper but is actually home to 10,000 people — where Pokémon can’t spawn naturally.
The buffer zone was designated nearly 50 years ago as an area where military personnel and equipment were banned from both sides of the island to defuse tensions. 7 km wide in some areas, it has long been home to a number of towns and villages from which residents have never been removed. Today these towns and villages still exist and can easily be visited. Where the zone runs through the state capital Nicosia, it shrinks to a few meters in width and can be crossed at various checkpoints.
The fact that this area blocks Pokémon spawns isn’t a new issue for Pokémon Go, but it’s also never been one that’s garnered much attention. After all, how many of the 10,000 people who live in the buffer zone play Pokémon Go? A couple. Although perhaps the real question is how many more would play if they could.
Visit the area and take out your phone, and you can still play Pokemon Go to some extent – there are still PokéStops you can hook up bait to, arenas for raid battles, and you can still use incense, to force Pokémon to appear for a limited time. But without help – which usually means using a premium item – Pokémon spawns don’t appear regularly. It means that people who live in the area usually travel to play somewhere else.
Why? The problem here appears to be related to the game’s mapping software simply identifying the UN Buffer Zone as a military area, thus blocking Pokémon from spawning.
“I’ve been playing Pokemon Go since its inception, with a bit of a break in 2017-2018 for a few months,” Cypriot Pokémon Go player Solon Falas tells me. “Since then I’ve been playing almost every day, traveling to other countries to take part in some events. I almost never missed a big event and am slowly working towards my goal of reaching level 50 (currently almost 48).”
Falas has been supported by recent additions to Pokémon Go, such as Like the community-driven Wayfarer system, which allows players to nominate and vote for local landmarks to be part of the game. This gives islanders in the Buffer Zone more options to use decoys, but these are still a premium item.
“I played a lot with my fellow students at college, which is in a fairly developed area with lots of spawns and PokéStops,” Falas continues. “But every time I visit my hometown [in the UN Buffer Zone] I can’t help but think, “What if there was a local Pokémon Go community here too?!”
“Right now, no village or town here can develop their own Pokemon Go communities as having no spawns at all is a huge disappointment.”
In a way, it’s a similar problem to the Greek island of Salamis, whose residents were suddenly without Pokémon spawns due to an open-source map change in 2019. Then, attention to the issue prompted developer Niantic to step in, and Salamis quickly got his access back. Falas hopes that with more awareness, residents of Cyprus’ buffer zone could also have hope.
Some promising steps towards full reunification of Cyprus have been taken in recent years, with talks on and off over the past decade. In the meantime, however, Pokémon Go fans are hoping for a quicker fix – we’ve contacted Niantic regarding the issue and will keep you updated.
https://www.eurogamer.net/the-history-of-cyprus-is-a-problem-in-pokemon-go The history of Cyprus is an issue in Pokémon Go