Catching the Pokemon Go Fever

DSC_0876_webIf you’ve been out and about at all in recent weeks, you’ve undoubtedly noticed hordes of people walking around, eyes glued to their phones, clearly on the hunt for something. While some of them may be on Facebook or Instagram, many are likely deep in the thralls of Pokémon Go, the latest iteration of the popular Pokémon video game series. Unlike past games, however, this new app, which is free for smartphones, encourages users to actually search the world around them for the creatures, which range from the adorable to the intimidating.

Pokémon Go follows a long history of the Pokémon franchise, which began in 1996 with the release of the original games for Game Boy as well as the coveted trading cards. I’ll admit I was an unabashed fan in my boyhood, and my mother can affirm that I was ceaselessly entranced with the world of Pokémon with my Game Boy constantly in my pocket, the VHS tapes of the television show regularly scattered around the house, and my binder always in need of new pages to keep up with the cards I was collecting.

IMG_3265After a few years doing all I could to collect all 151 Pokémon in card form as well as in digital form on Red, Yellow and Blue Versions, I fell out of touch with this fictional universe, but the franchise kept going, expanding on the 151 original creatures with even more. And then, in July of this year, developer Niantic in conjunction with The Pokémon Company released Pokémon Go for iOS and Android devices, revolutionizing the franchise.

The premise is simple: just as in the Game Boy games, users aim to search the world for rare and exotic Pokémon, which are at the most basic level fanciful insects and animals, and strive to collect all of them while ascending in rank to become leaders of area gyms. But this time, the world is the real world.

Using GPS, users actually track Pokémon in the world around them; this can’t be played solely from the couch – players have to actually get up, get out and hunt for the Pokémon using the “nearby” feature to see what’s where and how far away.

IMG_3268Though I used to bow at the temple of Pokémon, I haven’t visited with the franchise since 2000 or so, and consequently, I wasn’t much interested in the new game. However, after giving into some peer pressure, I downloaded it, and I haven’t looked back since.

While most of my friends are interested in battling their Pokémon at the gyms, which are located throughout the city, I’m more concerned, currently, with simply catching and collecting. With over 150 to find, it’s a time-consuming endeavor and one I’m striving to balance with other aspects of my life. It’s hard not to open the app every time I’m somewhere new or somewhere I don’t go every day. And the temptation of using it while driving is exceedingly dangerous. But when played at the appropriate times, it’s a whole lot of fun.

IMG_3278Though the more common Pokémon such as Pidgeys and Rattatas can be found pretty much anywhere, there are certain places in town where you can find some of the rarest and most sought-after. The Jeffersonville RiverStage is widely known to be one of the havens of Pokémon-catching with the less common Clefairy, Magnemite and Machop making regular appearances. Hitmonchan can often be found in Cherokee Park. Lickitung has been seen on Dixie Highway.

If certain Pokémon aren’t where you want them, you can always turn on a lure module, which attracts Pokémon of all types to your location for 30 minutes. When you inevitably run out of Pokéballs, visiting a nearby Pokéstop, spaced more frequently across town than gyms, is a must to acquire more items.

IMG_3275Yes, the game is as simple and – in all honesty – as nerdy as it sounds. But it’s also as fun as it sounds. It is absolutely unreal to be walking around The Highlands getting closer and closer to a Starmie and then look across the street and see a group of people doing the exact same thing. Recently, a video of a horde of New Yorkers storming Central Park to capture a wild Vaporeon went viral partially because of the general craze but also because of the sheer unity wrought by the game.

Pokémon Go is bringing people together. People of all ages, races, genders, socioeconomic statuses and more are coming together to build their collections and gain experience points in new and exciting ways every day. Yes, this is another distraction on our phones, but it’s also a wildly innovative game that is getting gamers and non-gamers alike together and outside, enjoying each other and the world around them in the hunt to catch them all. VT