It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
It’s a – Pikachu?
If you have a smart phone – or even know anybody who does – chances are you’ve uttered or heard this very phrase hundreds of times already, caught up in the international frenzy known as Pokémon Go.
Pokémon Go is an app-based game that launched less than a month ago and has taken a firm grip on modern society. It’s based off the uber-popular video and card game from the late 1990s/early 2000s, in which players strove to catch all 150 Pokémon, or pocket monsters.
In the Game Boy game (remember Game Boy?), players navigated through a made-up world looking for made-up monsters. In Pokémon Go, players navigate the actual world looking for actual, made-up monsters.
The game uses GPS and your phone’s camera to create an augmented reality. The result is looking at your phone and seeing a little digital creature jumping around your living room couch or a bench at Bicentennial Square.
Since we were unlikely to find interview subjects on our own couches, we decided to head out into the city to see if we could find some Pokémon hunters. Plus, neither of us Insiders had the game and didn’t want to eat up precious phone storage with it (apparently the game is somewhat of a hard drive hog).
Word on the street is Bicentennial Square is a hot spot for Pokémon, so that’s where we went last Thursday.
Despite the heat and general mugginess, there were still plenty of people out and about, trying to fill up their digital monster coffers.
Two such people were Sal Rinaldi and Dom Manning, a couple of 16-year-old Concord High students.
They were sitting by Margaritas with their phones in hand, and I just had a feeling I knew what they were up to.
Sure enough, these guys were on a mission to catch ’em all, just like seemingly everyone else these days.
“Everyone comes here,” Rinaldi said. Bicentennial Square is home to four Pokéstops, or places that have a relatively high concentration of Pokémon. These are also places to stock up on Pokéballs, which you need to catch the monsters.
Needless to say, if one small area is home to four whole Pokéstops, you can count on the place being packed all the time.
“Right now it’s a Thursday afternoon, so it’s not that crowded, but on a Friday or Saturday night,” Manning said, his voice trailing off for dramatic effect.
Manning and Rinaldi, born right around the time the original Pokémon first came into being, fondly remember their childhood days of playing the game on Nintendo DS, the way cooler version of Game Boy that came out decades later. The fact that they were both big into the game back then had a lot to do with their interest in the new game.
“I think it’s mostly nostalgia,” Rinaldi said.
When Pokémon first came out, there were 150 total monsters to catch. After a few years, the franchise rolled out countless more. But the die-hards consider only the original 150 to be legit, and that’s where this game does well: Pokémon Go features only the original 150.
Apart from Pokéstops, there are also gyms, in which many players get together in an effort to take over the gym and claim it. There’s no actual fighting or anything, but a lot of respect is on the line.
And there are certain places where you can find eggs. These eggs require walking certain distances to hatch – 10 kilometers, for example.
In that regard, you can really get a pretty good workout over the course of a day.
It knows if you’re cheating, too. Go above 20 mph and it will know you’re not walking that fast and the egg won’t hatch.
One negative side of the game has been the tendency of people to walk into or off of things, paying too little attention to the real world around them.
There have been stories in the news of people being robbed, finding dead bodies and walking off cliffs. Luckily, nothing too, too bad has happened to Rinaldi and Manning thus far.
“I’ve walked into a rock before,” Manning said, but that was about the extent of it.
If you have the app, check out all of downtown for lots of Pokémon hot spots. If you don’t, well, what are you waiting for?!