The confusing case of the fast food playground
So I was scrolling through the AMAs and Criteria Logs to see how to explain Fast Food Playgrounds to people. And there's a lot of contradicting information.
In the AMAs alone there are 3 Answers confirming Fast Food playgrounds being eligible
Q54: Playgrounds are 5* but what about playgrounds inside fast food restaurants?
A54: Like McDonald's Play Places? Aren't they commercial entities? The OPR guide says "ACCEPT if the candidate is in a park or community gathering place; falls under the criteria of public spaces that encourage walk and exercise."
Q47: Your clarification from the September 2018 AMA about playgrounds at restaurants is unfortunately a hot topic of contention in our local community, and is often interpreted as "NIA is monitoring fast food playgrounds." Would it be possible to just spell it out with a definitive answer, such as 'Playground OK, Restaurant No'?
A47: This is exactly what the clarification said. NIA OPS said, “the playground typically meets the criteria of regular playgrounds...The business itself in the case of McDonald's would likely not meet the Portal criteria. So the playground is ok. Just don't try to submit every McDonald's location as those will get denied.”
Q64: Hey there Andrew... hope you're well? was good to chat with you in Kaunas. What are NIA and yourself's feelings about Softplay areas for kids with regards to portal submissions? Inparticularly indoor ones?
A64: The response to this question is the same as the response in March to the McDonald’s playgrounds. NIA OPS said, “the playground typically meets the criteria of regular playgrounds...The business itself in the case of McDonald's would likely not meet the Portal criteria. So the playground is ok. Just don't try to submit every McDonald's location as those will get denied.”
However, there's another AMA answer that seems to contradict this.
Q49: There has been a lot of confusion regarding certain types of playgrounds. It seemed like indoor playgrounds, even McDonalds playgrounds, were canonized; then uncanonized in the new wayfarer guide(by requiring historical or cultural significance that no playground I’m aware of has), and then in the last AMA given a status as ok as long as it’s not a part of a business. Can we get clarification/simplification on this such as ‘playgrounds are valid as long as they are not on school property, a military base, or part of a daycare’?
A49: NIA OPS informs me that, “Playgrounds are eligible, as long as they are not located on primary and secondary school grounds, child care centers, day care centers, or private residential property. For these indoor playgrounds, if they’re publicly accessible play areas (like a generic playground in a mall), yes. If it's part of a commercial business (like McDonalds), no.”
And the most recent Jan 2020 criteria log has
Outdoor and Indoor Playgrounds
- Playgrounds in parks and apartment complexes: accept one nomination per play area. If a Wayspot already exists for the play area, mark the individual play structures as duplicates of the play area’s Wayspot. For example, there shouldn’t be individual Wayspots for the slide and swing set within a play area, but rather one for that playground overall.
- Play areas in freely accessible areas of a mall.
- Not acceptable:
- Playgrounds in schools, daycares, or children's centers
- Play areas attached to or within 40 meters of private residences
- Commercial play areas; review them as you would any business
Which leaves the Fast Food Playground in a bit of a limbo, since Playground at Fast Food areas aren't exactly commercial play areas. There's no charge to use them like a commercial business based around a play area. They're free to use and restaurants will let kids play on them regardless of whether or not they're there to eat. The only real limiting factor is that the indoor ones have open/closed hours with the restaurant. But all the above is true of mall playgrounds.
This also ties into the coin rides AMA clarification a bit.
Q41: Do coin-operated machine play areas like this in front of stores and in malls make acceptable portal candidates?
A41: According to NIA OPS, “This is similar to the McDonalds' Play Area question - if this is a publicly accessible play area in the mall, yes. If it's part of a commercial business, no.”
Which implied that coin rides were similar to the McDonalds playgrounds clarification, where they were acceptable. This clarification held true in the Criteria Clarification logs posted in both Oct.2019 and Jan.2020 Updates.
So I'm wondering if the clarification saying McDonalds playgrounds were an example of commercial business was different perspective (like we've seen before) or if this was indeed the nixing of all playgrounds inside fast food locations?
As far as I'm concerned, any playground that doesn't violate either the PRP or school rule should be acceptable. That includes playgrounds in restaurants such as McDonalds as well as those in businesses whose sole purpose is to be an indoor playground. These are no different than other acceptable candidates within businesses such as murals or artwork nor in the case of businesses which also have playgrounds, nor are they different from something such as a bowling alley in which the primary attraction requires payment in the case of sole purpose playgrounds. These places act as gathering places for parents and give them an opportunity to socialize with friends while their children are occupied. It makes no sense at all to say that coin operated rides somehow by pass this other restriction either. And it's clear based on the back and forth that it's not a solid decision from Niantic either.
What do a McDonalds Playground, a Park Playground, a Neighborhood Playground, and a Mall Playground have in common? They are all community gathering spots where people bring their kids. This is a location where kids can socialize as well as adults. There is no difference besides venue, they serve the same exact purpose.
In my opinion any Playground whether at a Park, a Restaurant, a Mall, or a Playground that even charges admissions. There is no difference in purpose or use. They meet the same spirit of the game and get people out and together. This would open a valid and safe location for all users.
The only exclusions would be PRP and Schools as mentioned by @tehstone-ING.
As far as places that require payment for use, there would be no different then plenty of other examples of Valid Waypoints. Such as Sports Stadiums, Bowling Alleys, Amusement Parks and etc.
@GearGlider-ING Thank you for bringing this topic back up.
As somebody who grew up in the North, I spent more time at indoor playplaces like ones at McDonald's more than outdoor ones. I even remember birthday parties at them. I frankly see them as significant, if not more, than many outdoor ones.
If a mural or little free library on the grounds of a chain business would be eligible, I don't understand why indoor playplaces at a chain business should be ineligible. That just sounds like a double standard.
I completely agree with everything stated thus far. My children look forward to playing at the play areas at McDonald's or Chick-fil-A just as much as at any park. In fact, they often choose which McDonald's to eat at based upon which of the various unique play areas they are in the mood for. Do they want the one with the helicopter or the tree house? Maybe they would rather do the obstacle course or play basketball at the indoor court?
That's not even including the significance when we travel. After many hours in a van, it's a lifesaver to find a play area that we know they can play at and burn some energy no matter the weather. If that's not significant, I don't know what is.
Not to mention a lot of fast food playgrounds are being removed making it rarer and rarer to see one. It's not like a few decades ago where you could expect certain restaurants to have them.
I think they should be eligible. It makes no sense to me that a playground inside a mall is eligible, but one in a McDonald's isn't. Why should an eligible candidate become ineligible just because it's inside a McDonald's? Location has never affected eligibility for any other candidates (except for PRP and K-12 schools). But McDonald's isn't either of those.
I'll lend my support to the agreements, I see no reason why a fast-food restaurant playground shouldn't be eligible. The candidate is a playground first and foremost, and it's often a discrete area from the restaurant as well. I find that a lot of playground inside McDonald's and the like don't necessarily require a purchase to play on the playground either
The recent clarifications says if it's a commercial play area, not acceptable.
This brings up a great question. What constitutes a commercial play area? A play area at a business? or a Play Area that is a Business?
There is a big difference between a McDonalds Playground that doesnt require payment to use versus other places for example like Chuck E Cheese, **** Joes, or a variety of other businesses that are nothing but for profit play areas. While places like Chik Fil A or McDonalds are businesses with Play Areas. Those play areas require no payment or purchase to use so are they "commercial" play areas? Or are they play areas at commercial businesses? In my mind there is a big difference.
Uh yeah I'm well aware lol. I'm saying that it's weirdly at odds with other clarifications and is just the lastest of a back and forth decision which suggests it's not a solid decision. All playgrounds are more or less the same, why should these be singled out? Other things such as art don't suddenly become ineligible because they're within a business. And playgrounds that require payment are no different than bowling alleys and other such communal forms of entertainment which are eligible.
Between the inconsistency in the ruling and the confusion caused by the differing rulings this seems like it's worth another look from niantic.
Yeah, I'd appreciate Niantic to look into fast food restaurant playgrounds again as well. With the multiple contradictory clarifications from the AMAs and the more ambiguous clarification from the wayfarer update log, it would be nice to know what the deal is.
Especially like what @AgentB0ss-ING brought up earlier. Pay-playgrounds like Chuck E Cheese would definitely be the generic business playgrounds that I think Niantic meant to strike down with the Jan 2020 clarification, but the free playgrounds at places like McDonalds were always fine until one of the AMA answers mentioned McDonalds as a generic business. So the free access playgrounds at those restaurants might be perfectly within guidelines.
So, by the same analogy would any object that represent a business (i.e. Ronald statue in McDonalds) eligible too?
Happened to see some of them nominated in my country, as well.
Mass produced objects/art are ineligible regardless of whether they represent a business or not.
Review them as any business =
Reject them as generic business as per the guidelines.
It's not about the business though, that would be like saying you should review a Mural like a business just because it's on the wall of one.
I've always interpreted that phrasing to mean that a playground in McDonalds is a "commercial play area" (and therefore, to be rejected), but now that I read it more closely I'm starting to doubt that interpretation... hear me out here: the AMA question specifically asks about coin operated games, and the answer says to accept play areas that are freely accessible to the public. So perhaps I've been interpreting it wrong, and that answer is referring to businesses where games, inflatables, and rides are behind an area that requires money/wristbands/coins to access or play - i.e. the play areas are the commercial aspect. In contrast, you don't have to make a purchase to access the McDonalds play area... even though it might be considered tacky to freeload by showing up to let the kids play without purchasing food.
@NianticCasey-ING There's a lot of conflicting interpretations of how Playgrounds in fast food restaurants are supposed to be reviewed. Could you ask the Wayfarer Team about clarification on this?
I would read it as if you have to pay to use the playground, its commercial, if it's free to use, then it's good.
My interpretation of a commercial play area, as previously discussed is that you would have to pay in order to use the facilities or structures. It follows the similar lining of the coin-operated machine play areas where if it was in a mall, yes... but probably different if it were in a Timezone or an Arcade: its operations connected to the business.
In Australia, some examples of commercial play areas operating directly as a business would be Crocs Playcentre, Flip Out Indoor Trampoline Park, Chipmunks Playland & Cafe, and probably even the Småland play areas in IKEA where they start charging a fee if you leave your child there for more than 90 minutes. All of these require a childminding or an entry fee to stay in the facility, and often has additional services such as first aid, reception staff and supervisors, all part of the business/commercial play area.
The playgrounds at fast food restaurants and even some "family-friendly" pubs that have a kids' play area are different. Most of the time you don't have to be a customer; just rock up there, take a rest and let the kids expend their limitless energy so they fall asleep in the car.
It's almost always been relatively unclear on Niantic's side (except for the Jan 2020 AMA), but as long as we start the dialogue and get the ball rolling, perhaps reviewers may have a change of heart. Perhaps if the playground requires a fee to be charged, then it's ineligible.
Commercial: making or intended to make a profit.
No fee? Then you're good to go.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who's thinking this way. I'd love some official clarification about whether the fact that the paid play areas are the core of the business (as opposed to making, say, a restaurant more attractive) is what makes them ineligible.
Same, it's one of those things that a lot of reviewers are unsure of.
@NianticCasey-ING I know there is a lot on your plate and you are a very busy person. When you have a moment could you review this thread. A lot of us would appreciate additional guidelines and clarifications related to this topic. With all the previous AMA answers and current wayfarer help its not clear what is and is not eligible for Playgrounds.
I used the Wayfarer Criteria Clarifications form for a this question back in March, actually. I just found the email.
Are play areas located inside a generic business eligible Wayspots? This has four [typo:gone] back and forth several times. They are totally [typo:typically] freely accessible (not that that matters - museums & zoos are eligible) and frequently used as social gatherings for children's functions and are valuable play areas for much of the world during inhospitable weather.
This was submitted back in March. It's been a few months since since we've had any new clarifications posted.
@GeneralUltraTC-ING interessante questa e nuova non lo sapevo
I was talking about this specific clarification:
i read it as they are trying to get McDonald's as a sponsor so no more free nominations for them until a deal is signed.
I mean, they made AMA comments saying to approve McDonalds playgrounds when McDonalds already had a PGO sponsorship in some countries.
I would consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the criteria, wayfarer help, AMAs, and reviewing in general. Reading through everything about Playgrounds at businesses or that are businesses is very confusing and just doesn't make sense or fit anything else. I would love to see a further full detail confirmation either for or against Playgrounds of this nature by Niantic.