For most people in the UK, we’re still waiting for Pokémon Go to be released on our respective app stores, unless you’re willing to install a bare .apk file or access a different region’s store. The gradual global roll out was halted before the weekend, as Niantic are getting to grips with the server load that the huge audience has created.
It really is an unqualified success, with the internet alight with stories and photos of people getting up and off the sofa to head out into the open world and catch a few Pokémon. We’ll see how long that urge lasts – Dave found that it wore a little thin after a while – but for now there’s quite a bit of amusement to be had and it’s a little heartwarming to see a game spreading like this.
Whether it’s just people hanging around in parks at the same time, police getting in a spot of Pokémon catching while on patrol, or businesses latching onto the trend, the game has really caught on in North America.
There’s countless examples of people finding the positives, even if it is hurting their legs from all the walking. While some stories could be taken with a pinch of salt, all you need to do is visit the Pokémon and Pokémon Go subreddits to see.
Take Sekerah’s story, for example. “So a little while ago at around 10pm I was in a drive through getting fast food,” they write, “when I hear someone yell “Go Team Valor”. Then someone responded “No, go Mystic”. I pull up the app and see across the street are 3 stops all right next to each other and all of them had lures active.
“After getting my food I drive over there and the entire parking lot is full and there are 40+ people walking around looking at the phones, joking, talking, and laughing. I stuck around for 1.5 hours and caught a ton of Pokémon. When I left there were still dozens of people. And people were arriving and leaving the entire time I was there. It was really cool.”
They summed it up by saying “It’s pretty awesome.”
And just in the last few hours, a reddit user called Peed_Niy wrote, “I’m not super sure whether this is Pokémon Go itself or just having an excuse to be outside, but either way my attitude towards life is completely changing. I’m making real friends from the game, and I’m putting attention into my appearance. I’ve told my dad I’d like to start eating much better lately, and I’ve made plans to get my driver’s permit soon. Whether it’s being outside or enjoying walks, Pokémon Go seems to have changed my life.”
Sadly I can’t currenly find the original source for this video.
However, there’s more than a few signs that they’re wary of so much late night Pokémon hunting – the highly charged atmosphere in the US obviously exacerbates this. Hanaintdead wrote on Reddit, “Was in front of a closed yogurt shop where three units surrounded me. I explained that there was a Pokéstop there and what not. Cops told me to be careful driving around so late at night stopping to catch Pokémon lol. They have received numerous calls about cars stopping at various locations apparently.”
Their lives aren’t exactly made easier by some police stations being marked as Pokéstops. Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services in Australia posted, “For those budding Pokémon Trainers out there using Pokémon Go – while the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokéstop, please be advised that you don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs.”
But there’s also a stranger side to Pokémon Go, or perhaps more accurately, it can show a darker side to the world that we live in. Last Friday in Wyoming, for example, a 19 year old was led to a highway bridge, as the game said there were resources there to be collected. I doubt the game meant a dead body that was face down in a pool of still water. At least there doesn’t seem to have been any foul play in this case.
More concerning is the game’s lure feature, which let players ping one another and potentially draw them off the beaten path. Four Missouri teenagers were arrested last night having used this feature to add a lure to a Pokéstop in a CVS carpark, before ambushing and robbing people at gunpoint.
But of course, while there are these potential dangers – Pokémon Go does include a warning to remain mindful of your surroundings, a lesson this kid learned all too well when he smashed his phone while skateboarding – there are so many more positive and heartwarming stories that come from it.
One thing’s clear: 20 years on from its original release, Pokémon remains hugely popular, and that can bring people together in new and unexpected ways.
Seriously, who would have predicted Perth police closing down intersections so that crowds of people could walk around playing a videogame?