If you’ve noticed an abundance of people walking around downtown recently, it’s not a coincidence. With the launch of Pokémon Go, users are required to go out and explore their communities on the quest to ‘catch ‘em all.’
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, GPS based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It was initially released last week in the United States.
The first Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Green Versions, came to the Nintendo Game Boy system in Japan on February 27, 1996 and allowed people of all ages to catch, train and trade 151 creatures and become a Pokémon Master. Since, there have been numerous reiterations and generations of the game, movies, a television series and it has been a successful franchise all over the globe.
What makes the game special is its use of augmented reality, where Pokémon will appear as if they’ve been spotted in the real world. The game presents a map powered by GPS, using real-world locations to spot Pokémon and collect items. When you find one, the game opens up your smartphone’s camera, giving you a view of Pokémon in the real world. Once you spot them, you flick a Poké Ball toward the creature to capture it.
It’s ironic that a pastime chastised for keeping people indoors is responsible for pushing players to explore their outdoor surroundings. Because the mobile game requires players to search nearby parks or neighborhoods for Pokémon, people are walking.
“You have to drive down and see all the hundreds of people along the flood wall, ” said user Rhonda Johnson.
Johnson began playing the game for fun, after seeing her teenage son Brayden playing.
“It’s amazing really, to see that many people outside and doing something,” Johnson said.
Along with collecting Pokémon, there are Poké Stops pinned to real locations where players can grab items. It could be a grocery store, or a landmark, or even a sign that can serve as a Poké Stop. Poké Stops allow users to “check-in,” and refil resources needed for game-play like Poké Balls and other special power-ups.
There are three teams in Pokémon Go, Team Instinct, Team Mystic and Team Valor. Once a user reaches level 5 status, they can utilize gyms to battle against other Pokémon and connect with other users on their team.
“I was personally excited for the release of an augmented reality Pokemon game,” Main Street Portsmouth Executive Director and Pokémon Master Joseph Pratt said.” But I had no idea it would grow into what it has become. I’ve never seen so many people downtown. I’ve had businesses requesting to be Poké Stop and I’ve had people suggesting vendor participation. It is absolutely crazy to see just how many people, not only young gamers, but entire families are coming downtown to play a game. It doesn’t matter if you drive down Front Street at 7 in the morning, 8 in the evening, or 2 in the morning; people are downtown, hitting up the historic landmarks, and being a part of downtown. If only Team Mystic would leave me at least one gym for my Dragonite to play in, I’d be happy.”
Pokémon Go users James Odle, Mark Webb and Bobb Collins created a Facebook group, Pokémon Go of Scioto County, in order to organize walks, connect users and help with questions regarding game play. In just over a week, the group has grown to nearly 350 users.
“We’ve all waited 20 years for this, and we all enjoy it so much already and it hasn’t even been out a week,” explained Odle. “With so many like minded individuals, everyone just wants to see each other enjoy the game as much as they do. Of course we have the team rivalries, but just like in the other games, there was always the “Red vs. Blue” aspect, and it just helps bring that additional element to life. People have spent their own personal money on Lure Modules (in-game devices used to bring Pokémon closer to a specified location) to benefit everyone else, and some have even sat with water and snacks for people who have been out walking to help keep them hydrated. It’s great to see something like this bring out so many different types of people and bring them all together.”
But like any game, it has risks. While you’re out hunting be sure to stay safe. Here are some tips on how to safely enjoy the game.
Stop to catch your Pokémon
Make sure you stop before trying to catch the Pokémon. If you’re looking at your phone and walking, you can run into obstacles, other people, and potentially traffic. Make sure to take breaks from the screen and pay attention to your surroundings and stay alert to events around you.
If you’re out hunting, it can be easy to forget how far from home you may end up. Take all the normal precautions you might if you were going on a hike: bring a water bottle or plan to walk by places where hydration will be available, wear sunscreen, and wear a hat.
Mew 2 might be in your neighbors backyard and it may be tempting to hop the fence and catch it. Try to refrain from trespassing and respect the property of the city and others.
For more information about Pokémon Go, you can visit “Pokémon Go of Scioto County,” on Facebook. The game is available for free download on iOS and Android devices.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext. 1932, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara