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Pokémon craze sparks activity, exploration, local players say

'To be honest, I never used to walk around anywhere'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/7/2016 (1226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/7/2016 (1226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jesse Claeys was never one for outdoor exercise — until he started playing Pokémon Go a couple of days ago.

"To be honest, I never used to walk around anywhere, I drive absolutely everywhere, never take runs or anything," said Claeys, who grew up in the 1990s playing Pokémon.

While players are still staring at their phones, the nostalgic new game seems to be taking them away from Netflix and the Xbox in the basement.

"It's now got me taking runs in the middle of the night chasing down these Pokémon or trying to get my eggs hatching," Claeys said. "It's great for the fact that it's also an activity for all young kids instead of sitting at home playing your XBox, Call of Duty, and all that stuff. You're now going out, being active and living a healthy lifestyle."

It's rare for Pokémon, or pocket monsters, to show up in front of you in Pokémon Go — you have to actively search for the virtual creatures. Throughout the augmented reality game, you can also collect eggs. But in order for them to hatch you have to walk certain distances — sometimes up to 10 kilometres.

Millions around the world are playing Pokémon Go, even though it's technically only been available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand since last Wednesday. Canadians are downloading the game on their iOS devices by creating American iTunes accounts and on their Android devices by downloading unofficial software.

But that didn't stop Alyssa Christie from fulfilling her destiny — installing the game to catch 'em all. Specifically, she's looking to add a Ponyta and a Goldeen to her Pokédex, or Pokémon index. On Monday, Christie was one of around 100 players who sat near or wandered around the Oodena Circle The Forks — a hot spot for Pokémon.

"The PokéStops are placed at parks or monuments," Christie said. "When you put the (lure) module on these PokéStops, you get more Pokémon attracted here. So, that's why everyone is here, because there's three stops where they keep spawning Pokémon."

Three lures attracted rare Pokémon, like Psyduck and Poliwag, to The Forks on Monday night. At PokéStops, you collect more Pokéballs and other items to help you throughout the game.

Claeys' friend Justin Enns said he's never seen a phone game bring such a diverse group of people together like Pokémon Go has.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Mark Petrasanta followed his phone to a Pokemon meet-up at the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks. </p>


Mark Petrasanta followed his phone to a Pokemon meet-up at the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks.

"If you list off the last four or five really big phone games — like phone apps — like Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, Temple Run, it doesn’t do this," Enns said looking at the crowd. "You don’t’ see a hundred people playing Flappy Bird or Temple Run or any of those games. You see maybe two people doing it next to each other. Well, now you’re seeing hundreds of people and it doesn’t matter what age, non-gender, right? I mean, everyone’s playing it. It brings everyone together so it’s really cool."

At this time, players can battle each other and train Pokémon at PokéGyms, but Claeys said people aren't too competitive yet.

"It's spectacular, really, because everybody's so friendly about it," Claeys said. "You walk around like, 'Oh I missed this,' and, 'Hey, you know, I saw a Jynx over here.' Everybody is trying to help each other out while they're doing this."

Pokémon Go has taken Parker Petrovich and her boyfriend Jordan Klann all over the city in search of rare Pokemon.

"Out in the country, out in Royalwood, out in St. Vital, about half a tank of gas," Klann said.

"And then today I ended up here and I brought him back because I discovered that I was getting a lot of really good Pokémon here, so I might as well share it," Petrovich added.

Meanwhile, sharing the adventure with 100 players in the same place is something Christie never thought she would see.

"I didn’t expect it to be this big, where it’s like people are congregating in areas and stuff," she said. "I feel like a big nerd talking about it."

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>27-year-old Justin Enns (left) and Jesse Claeys, 24 followed their phone to a Pokemon meet-up at the Oneda Circle.</p>


27-year-old Justin Enns (left) and Jesse Claeys, 24 followed their phone to a Pokemon meet-up at the Oneda Circle.

Pokémon Go: explained

What it is:

Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality game that launched in the United States late last week. In a nutshell, the game lays a sort of semi-transparent Poké-world over your actual, geographical location, which you can explore by physically walking around while staring zombie-like at your screen.

Pokémon Go has already been downloaded more times than the dating app Tinder, and it is rapidly encroaching on Twitter, which has been around for a full 10 years. Nintendo's stock soared nearly 25 per cent Monday because of the game - its biggest gain in more than 30 years.

Where it started:

The game was released in Australia and New Zealand on July 6 and was rolled out in the United States the day after. It was supposed to become available in more countries from there, but so many people are already playing the game — overloading its servers — that international rollout has been paused indefinitely. Naturally, that is not stopping some determined players in Canada, Europe and elsewhere: It is possible to download Pokémon Go, no matter where you are, by changing your phone's region settings.

Who started it:

Pokemon Go was developed by Niantic, a company spun out from Google and known to many as the studio that previously brought you Ingress, a game conceptually similar to Pokémon Go in that you have to get out and explore the "real world" to play it. Niantic chief executive John Hanke explained his motivation this way in an interview with the New York Times last month:

"Everyone is spending all this time inside, by their computers. No one goes to the local parks. We wanted to do something that was aspirational: Let's get people outside… Part of the joy of the game is going off the beaten path. We're not about being strapped in a couch in The Matrix."

How to play it as if you know what you're doing:

There are already a million guides to playing Pokémon Go out there, from Polygon's tips for the "ultimate beginner" to Game Revolution's "advanced" strategies. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, though, the best way to not look like an idiot while playing is to... not look like you're playing. How? One, find a viable cover for your phone-distracted wandering. (A dog is helpful here, as is any car ride in city traffic when you're sitting in the passenger seat.) Two, limit yourself to casual, incidental checks in public — of the kind you might usually deploy for your email or Facebook notifications. Added bonus: This will also help you avoid walking into people or suffering other accidents.

A smart observation to make at your next nerdy dinner party:

More than a mobile game, Pokémon Go is sort of a massive-scale trial run for augmented-reality technology: a chance to get consumers used to the idea of interacting in mixed virtual and physical environments. The more people adopt it, the more situations like the one I described above — where it felt awkward to be called out for playing in public — will actually seem normal, even expected.

— Washington Post


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Updated on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 10:24 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of Oodena in photo caption.

July 13, 2016 at 9:41 AM: Corrects spelling of Justin Enns' name

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