Earth has been invaded. Not by aliens. By Pokémon.
The quirky video game characters first conceptualized for Game Boy in the early 1990s have been popping up in cities across the globe thanks to the new augmented-reality mobile game Pokémon Go.
You can now literally pocket these pocket monsters by searching for them near landmarks, statues, murals, bodies of water, campgrounds and street corners using the game’s map.
Here’s how it works: a map shows you where nearby Pokémon are hiding. Once you get close enough, the map will change to camera mode, in most phones. In this mode, you can see on your phone screen what is in front of you in real life — except a cartoon Pokémon is inserted into the screen to make it look like it is really there.
The goal: level up by catching as many Pokémon as possible.
It’s like geocaching but nerdier.
Pokémon Go has caught on like a Charizard-started wildfire.
It’s been trending on social media and news sites, including those such as Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
After its release date Monday, June 6, servers around the world crashed from its popularity.
Nintendo shares rose 13% to $222.16 in Tokyo trading Tuesday, July 12, following a 25% surge on Monday, July 11, pushing the video game maker’s market capitalization above $30 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Plant City Times & Observer editorial team is split on its fandom of the game. Staff Writer Emily Topper and Sports Editor Justin Kline don’t get the hype. I pitched a story for Kline to write for his sports section on how Pokémon Go is getting people out of their homes and exercising. He wasn’t buying it.
Designer CJ Major and myself find the game endearing and innovative as it moves a well-known and beloved canon from a controller and deck of cards to real life by updating it using technological advancements.
Although our office is divided, I think Pokémon Go has done just the opposite: it has united people.
Veronica Prostko, with Courtney Paat State Farm Agency, said a group of co-workers in her office have been bonding by going out after work, not for happy hour, but to catch Pokémon.
Shortly after its release, I was wandering Historic Downtown with Plant City artist Jesse Starr to try out the game, and we saw groups of people searching for a Charmander in McCall Park. Starr, who lives downtown, has seen groups in the park every night. One guy was even decked out in a Pikachu hat.
You don’t have to be a diehard fan to have fun with Pokémon Go. I’ve seen parents playing the game with their children in the their neighborhoods while walking the dog, and I (stuck at level five) am certainly not as knowledgeable as other players. I grew up with Pokémon being “a thing” but my experience is limited to being given a Jigglypuff playing card by my crush in fifth grade.
So, besides the fascinating technology and the cute Pokémon, Pokémon Go is important for a reason that goes beyond video games — it’s getting people to interact with their towns and bond over it.
The scavenger hunt-like gameplay has gamers in Plant City strolling through downtown, exploring fruit stands, noticing things they may not have noticed before. It’s teaching us to “Slowpoke’” around, instead of racing through life. It’s making us less “Krabby” and more in tune to the “Goldeen” beauty in our neighborhoods. It’s “Seaking” to change the way we view the world.
Contact Amber Jurgensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.