Pokémon Go, Pokémon return


When Shawn Kuehh, middle, and his friend Kyle Hance, left, visited Phalen Regional Park to play Pokémon Go, they did not expect to meet anyone new, but Bee Cheng, right, another Pokémon player, joined them at their Pokémon lure. As they sat together on the shady bank next to the lake, they learned that they all played for the red team and had all grown up playing the Gameboy and Gameboy Advance SP games in addition to the trading card game.

On Aug. 1, when Ryan Thompson, 23, of Oakdale sat down at a park bench near the entrance to the Oakdale Nature Preserve, the Pokégym was claimed by the red team, so he had his Pokémon battle the red team’s Pokémon who were guarding the gym. When his Pokémon won, he was able to claim the gym for Team Mystic, which is represented by the color blue.

Avion Vang, 8, of Oakdale has enjoyed watching the Pokemon T.V. shows over the years. He now plays Pokémon Go for Team Valor which is represented by the color red. On Aug. 1 he stopped by Oakdale’s Richard Walton Park to collect items from the park’s Pokéstops.

Isaiah Davis and Jackson Mitchell are both 13-year-olds from the East side of St. Paul who agree that biking around to catch Pokémon was a good way to spend their summer vacation. Mitchell (on left) plays for Team Instinct which is represented by the color yellow, and Davis (on right) plays for Team Valor which is represented by the color red. On Aug. 2, they biked through Phalen Regional Park looking for Pokémon.

The Little Free Library located by the Lake Elmo Inn is a local Pokéstop, and the Officer Crittenden Memorial near the North St. Paul city hall is a local Pokégym. Many other examples exist all over the Review area cities.

Pokémon Go players find Pokéstops and Pokégyms by walking around public places and looking on the map on their screen for nearby Pokéstops and Pokégyms. The above map shows the view from the Oakdale Discovery Center facing East toward Hadley Avenue North. For sites that are not near the player’s current location, fan-created maps are available online or in fan-created phone applications.

Local gamers abandon air conditioning for parks

Since being released July 6, Pokémon Go has become a global sensation with over 100 million downloads of the phone application, many of those users are in the Review area. 

Pokémon Go is a free game for iPhone and Android devices. It’s a real-world adventure game — often referred to as ‘augmented reality,’ using a phone camera’s live video feed while also overlaying graphics.

Pokémon Go players can catch and battle their own Pokémon — or monster characters — just like they could in the 1996 role playing video games on Nintendo’s original Game Boy, which introduced the world to the Pokémon franchise and inspired the trading card game as well as multiple other offshoots, including films and T.V. shows. Pokémon Go stands out, however, because the creators have incorporated exercise into the game.

While Wii games track the players motion in front of a T.V. screen, Pokémon Go utilizes the camera and global positioning system on the player’s smartphone to merge the reality of the players physical and geographical surroundings with the digital surroundings in the game. Players must move throughout their augmented environment to catch Pokémon, collect Pokéballs and battle for control of Pokégyms.

 

Out and about

Because of this game, children and young adults everywhere are out walking more, utilizing public spaces such as churches, parks, libraries, memorials, art installations and historical sites. 

Public places in the Review coverage area are not exempt from the trend.

According to Julie Williams, the Oakdale recreation superintendent, Pokémon Go has created a lot of traffic for the Oakdale Nature Preserve. 

“There is a constant flow from morning to night,” she said.

Nate Deprey, director at the Lake Elmo Public Library said that many kids have been visiting the library this summer to play Pokémon Go because the library is a Pokéstop. 

“We’ve been buying the Pokémon books and stuff, and they’re flying off the shelves,” he added. “It hasn’t been disruptive at all. It’s been great.”

 

Shattering that gamer stereotype

“You need to find wild Pokémon and then catch them, and then make them stronger to defeat more teams,” explained 8-year-old Avion Vang, as he played the game in Oakdale’s Richard Walton Park.

His father, Kay Vang of Oakdale, said he has driven his children all over the Twin Cities this summer following their desires to catch Pokémon, collect Pokéballs and battle at Pokégyms. Their family has visited ‘Poké-rich’ sites such as Como Zoo and the Mall of America, but they’ve spent most of their time visiting parks. 

“It keeps the kids motivated; it helps them with their health and they’re spending more time outdoors rather than just staying inside playing video games,” Vang said and added that because of the health benefits, he does not mind driving his children around to play the game or watching them from the car as they run around to collect their items. 

Ethan Kalin and Nick Smith, both 14-years-olds from North St. Paul, agreed that this summer they have spent more time out and about and have met more people than they had in previous summers. They spent the muggy Aug. 2 afternoon underneath the trees in front of the North St. Paul Post Office instead of in the air conditioning.

“I’ve been to places I haven’t been to in a long time,” said Shawn Kuehh, 21, of White Bear Lake who was catching Pokémon in Phalen Regional Park. 

He added that this summer he has visited a lot more parks than he otherwise would have. He also explained that Pokémon Go tracks how much he’s walked since he downloaded the game — by Aug. 2 he had walked roughly 59 miles. 

 

Finding stops
and gyms

When players look at their screen, they see a map similar to the GPS maps that appear in navigation programs. The landscape in the game reflects the landscape in the real world. For example, a player at the Oakdale Nature Preserve would see the outline of the Discovery Center and paths through the greenspace that correlate to the paths through the park.

However, the game’s screen view also allows players to see sites exclusive to the game, such as the Pokéstop — a place where players can collect items and provisions — at the Discovery Center trail map and the Pokégym near the entrance to the Oakdale Nature Preserve. 

“People really like [Pokémon Go] and we see a lot more people now,” said Laura Heimkes, administrative assistant at the Oakdale Discovery Center.

“[The Oakdale Nature Preserve has] a whole bunch of Pokéstops where people come and get items for their game. You need these items to play the game, and we have at least five stops just in our parking lot area,” she said, though she added that the Oakdale Parks and Recreation Department played no part in having Pokémon features added in the park.

According to Ryan Thompson, 23, of Oakdale, players choose to join either the red, yellow or blue team when they start their Pokémon Go account. He explained that Pokégyms like the one at the Oakdale Nature Preserve are claimed by the strongest team. Players on opposing teams can battle the Pokémon that guard the gym to claim it for their team. 

“The developer who made this game [Niantic] had made another game previously that was based on locations, [called Ingress]. I think the location for gyms and Pokéstops are based on the locations for that other game,” Thompson said.

As part of the Ingress game, players submitted public sites to be used within the game, similar to how these sites are used in Pokémon Go. This is where Niantic most likely got the information about public sites to turn into Pokéstops and Pokégyms.

 

Catching Pokémon

Isaiah Davis and Jackson Mitchell, both 13-year-olds from the East side of St. Paul, visit Phalen Regional Park every other day and frequently bike the Bruce Vento and Gateway Trails looking for Pokémon. They said that although they revisit the same spots, different Pokémon will show up at different times. They added that wild Pokémon will pop up just about anywhere players are walking or biking.

Davis and Mitchell explained that only the original 150 Pokémon are part of Pokémon Go; already Mitchell has caught 78 different varieties, and Davis has caught 70 different varieties.

“When you catch one, your camera’s on so you get to see everything around you,” Davis explained.

“If I caught a Pokémon it could be on the tree or in the grass over there,” Mitchell added.

They both think people are drawn to the popular game because it is one of the first games to incorporate a phone’s GPS and camera features.

Although Pokémon Go promotes exercise, Pokémon can also be caught while sitting at a Pokéstop. 

Kuehh, his friend Kyle Hance, 19, of the East side of St. Paul, and their new acquaintance Bee Cheng, 32, also of the East side of St. Paul, sat together on the bank of Lake Phalen, waiting for a Pokémon to appear, as they had reason to believe some would show up. 

“Instead of walking around to find [Pokémon], [a lure] brings it toward you,” Cheng explained.

“Pokéstops are the only place where you can use lures, and lures basically attract Pokémon. You can see when other people put lures down, and you just walk over and sit by everybody and collect the Pokémon there,” Kuehh said. He added that when lures are set, they look like sparkles or confetti on the screen, and Kuehh has occasionally seen over a hundred people sitting together by a lure at places like Rice Park, Harriet Island and Como Zoo.

Cheng pointed out that players can also hatch Pokémon with eggs.

“You can get the eggs at Pokéstops and basically it’s hooked up with the GPS on your phone so you have to walk a certain distance to hatch them, and it tracks how far you walk,” Kuehh said.

Cheng added that there are two kilometer, five kilometer and 10 kilometer eggs.

 

Nostalgia or innovation

Like Kuehh, Hance and Cheng, many young adults who now play Pokémon Go grew up with the Pokémon video games, card game and TV shows, though some Pokémon Go players are just jumping into the Pokémon world now that it has gotten popular again.

Joe R. Casale, 32, of the East side of St. Paul said he just plays the game in passing; he never played the other Pokémon games as a child.

“Today’s an exception. It’s a nice day to just go out there and do it, you know?” Casale said in reference to the sunny summer weather. Casale said he decided to give the game a chance when he noticed many of his friends were enjoying it.

Regardless of nostalgic motivations or the opportunity to experience the innovative gaming design, Pokémon Go players have been noticeable in parks and other public places. Jim Taylor, Maplewood’s parks manager, pointed out that participants are easy to spot because they are often staring at their phones, though he and other community members agree that it is refreshing to have gamers out in the community.

“We encourage anybody to get out into our parks,” Taylor said, “for any reason.”

 

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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