The University of Wyoming campus is normally quiet during the summer, especially at 10 p.m. However, a new game for smartphones is bringing dozens of hopeful trainers to find and capture the best Pokemon for their teams.
“I like that there’s a social aspect to it,” said Dakota Metzger. “I run into people. Last night, my boyfriend and I saw a car pulled over with two people on their phones, so we pulled over, too. Next thing you know, there’s five cars lined up and everyone’s sitting there playing. You could sit in a bar and all play together and joke around, because you aren’t pulled away from your friends so much like other phone games.”
“Pokemon Go” is an augmented reality game. Where you walk in the real world, your character walks on screen. Pokemon are a collection of various creatures and are scattered throughout the world ready for you to stumble upon and catch.
“If you see a person on the sidewalk with their face in their phone, there’s a high chance they’re playing ‘Pokemon Go,’” said Cho Carter, Albany County Public Library employee.
However, you are not alone — anyone with the app can see the same Pokemon you do and can interact both electronically and in person.
Based on Google Maps, many real-world locations are marked as Pokestops in the game, Carter explained.
“They’re like a geocached location where you can get in-game useful items,” he said.
In Laramie, these sites can be anything from a downtown restaurant or mural to a workout station in Washington Park. Another device adding to the social aspect are lures, an important item to gameplay, Carter said.
“The lure is an in-game device that attracts Pokemon to a Pokestop for the benefit of all players in the area,” he said.
Anyone with the game can see a lure. If you place a lure on the First Street Plaza stop, many people will eventually come to the area in search of plentiful Pokemon.
“I’ve seen photos from 11 p.m. (Monday) night with like 50 people here on campus around lures,” Matt Moran said.
“At LaBonte Park — it’s pitch black, there’s sprinklers going and there’s 20 people there. Everyone’s got their flashlights on.”
The Albany County Public Library hosts a gym — a site where people can battle their Pokemon for rights and ownership of the gym. If occupied long enough by a person or team, they earn rewards. However, people on opposing teams can battle for the gyms throughout the day.
“We have a lot of people come in here and start pacing, looking at their phones and we’re like, ‘We know what you’re doing,’” Circulation Manager Bailey Murray said. “(Tuesday), someone set up a lure in our garden, and I think that’s attracting people here and picking up traffic,” she said. “We’re really happy about it. I can’t wait to get a program together.”
Players can choose from three teams at the beginning of the game, further pulling them into the social side of Pokemon.
“Somebody ran up to us and asked, ‘What team are you?’” Moran said. “We’re red, and he said, ‘Too bad, we’re blue and need some help taking down this gym.’”
Nostalgia is a strong pull. Many people playing have either watched the show or played the games in the past. Young adults and college students grew up when Pokemon was in its infancy — the original game came out in 1998.
“This is the closest thing you can get to being Ash on the TV show while interacting with other people in real life instead of just on a GameBoy,” Alex Vass said.
Mike Samp, chief of the University of Wyoming Police Department, said some juveniles have been contacted late at night on campus and some chalk graffiti about the game has been found but nothing too negative.
“I just want everyone to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “People can get so involved and walk right into traffic. Secondly, when people are out and about, they need to realize that what they’re doing may look suspicious and draw attention.”
Laramie Police Department Chief Dale Stalder said officers are aware of the game and any suspicious activity calls that could be related. He said people should stay off private property for both the property owner and the gamer’s sake.
Vass said he’s enjoying the game while hundreds of people are playing it.
“I think the die-hard fans are going to stick with it, but I’m sure it’s going to end up being a fad,” he said. “I don’t think I’d have this much dedication during December when the snow comes.”