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The Meteoric Rise of Pokemon GO

Michael Pereira

Michael Pereira, Print Editor-In-Chief

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What seems like a peaceful night at Central Park is interrupted by what sounds like an uproar. Suddenly, crowds have formed and hurry toward the same direction. Some even leave their cars in the middle of the street to join the mayhem. The reason for all this? Pokemon GO

It all began in 1996 with the creation of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green for the Nintendo Game Boy system. Since then, many new games have been released, and the Pokemon franchise has thrived, selling over 214 million units of video games. Fast forward to 2016, and now we have Pokemon GO.

Pokemon Go is not your average Pokemon game. Gone are the days of having to weaken Pokemon before catching them, and some key factors from the main games are missing, such as battling each other and trading Pokemon.

However, these changes have not stopped fans.

Pokemon GO fan Spencer Lopes.

Michael Pereira
Pokemon GO fan Spencer Lopes.

“I love that the game is just pure fun. It’s not too competitive and it’s really great to interact with other people when comparing Pokemon,” Union Catholic High School senior Spencer Lopes said. “I think its a unifying factor for the community.”

And that does seem to be the case. There have been multiple published stories that show how Pokemon GO is connecting various communities. In one case, The Durham Bulls, a minor-league baseball franchise in North Carolina, opened its stadium doors to people who wanted to capture the Pokemon inside. People swarmed the stadium, conversing as they caught the virtual monsters.

It does not end there. A 10-year-old girl turned a Pokestop, a virtual location where people can restock on virtual items, in front of her sister’s house into a lemonade stand, equipped with different colored drinks and snacks for the three color coded teams in Pokemon GO.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton hosting a Pokemon Go rally on March 8, 2016.

J.D. Pooley
Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton hosting a Pokemon Go rally on March 8, 2016.

Even presidential candidates are using Pokemon GO. Hillary Clinton held a campaign event at a Pokemon Gym on the campus of Cuyahoga Community College located in Lakewood, Ohio, to get voters to register and learn more about her campaign.

Pokemon Go is also the first major Pokemon game where gamers can play as a non-white character, bringing diversity to a game where most protagonists are white.

 

“It’s nice to see the representation,” said Rachel Trischetta, a Pokemon Go fan at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

However, the popularity of the game has led certain media outlets to produce false stories in an attempt to gain readers. Fake news site Cartel Press made up a story where a young man was stabbed and had his iPhone stolen while playing Pokemon Go.

“The media really likes to write about people and their stupidity,” said Cyril Tan, a junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

 

The three Rutgers students interviewed from left to right: Jae Thomas, Cyril Tan, and Rachel Trischetta.

Michael Pereira
The three Rutgers students interviewed from left to right: Jae Thomas, Cyril Tan, and Rachel Trischetta.

Pokemon Go is clearly a phenomenon.

“Oh, those millennials and their phones,”  said Rutgers University junior Jae Thomas in jest, as she talked about playing the game.

Even Pewdiepie, who has over 46 million subscriptions on Youtube, plays Pokemon Go nearly every day as based upon his level posted on Twitter. And the thing is, you do not need any prior experience with Pokemon games in order to enjoy this one.

Pokemon GO fan Brianna Rivera

Michael Pereira
Pokemon GO fan
Brianna Rivera

Union Catholic High School Senior Brianna Rivera had never played the previous Pokemon games. But now, “I play it everyday,” she said. “Me and my friends get very competitive, and that makes the game more fun.”

However, everything has flaws, and Pokemon Go is no exception. There have been numerous Pokemon Go related car accidents, armed robberies of people lured to Pokestops, and people playing the game in inappropriate places, such as during a funeral or in the Holocaust Museum.

“Sometimes people act a little reckless,” Brianna said.

Then there is the problem of people playing the game while on the job, such as police officers and news reporters. Several Queens, NY cops are under investigation for playing the game while on duty, and U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby busted a reporter who was playing Pokemon Go during a press conference about the efforts to combat ISIS.

NYPD Officers Under Fire for Playing Pokemon GO

Moreover, there are several problems with the Pokestops. Pokemon Go developer Niantic was asked to create a Pokestop at the location where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by an officer. While some do not mind that the tragic location is a Pokestop, others believe that the Pokestop denigrates the site of the brutal killing.

“The makers of the game should be more cautious where they put Pokestops,” Spencer said. “People could be offended,” said Spencer.

Pokemon GO fan Lauren Guerra.

Michael Pereira
Pokemon GO fan Lauren Guerra.

Some people are at disadvantages when playing the Pokemon Go because they live in crime infested neighborhoods, or small town where there are no Pokestops.

“Cities are thought more of as tourist spots, so there are less Pokestops elsewhere,” said Lauren Guerra, another Union Catholic High School Pokemon GO player. “It’s kind of a hassle because you can’t play the game anymore when you run out of Pokeballs.”

Despite all of its problems, Pokemon Go does achieve its one true goal: making people more active and engaged with each other. People meet up at Pokestops and wind up hunting for Pokemon together.

Rutgers students hunt for Pokemon outside the School of Communications.

Michael Pereira
Rutgers students hunt for Pokemon outside the School of Communications.

“It’s definitely inspired me to go out more,” Spencer said. “Before, I’d stay home and play games, but now I can go outside and play games while meeting new people.”

Lauren agrees. “Usually video games trap people inside their homes but the app actually encourages you to go outside in order to play and live an active lifestyle,” she said.

“It’s given me a lot of motivation to exercise,” Jae said. “I’ve gained friends through lures.”

More on the Joys of Playing Pokemon GO

Pokemon Go requires a lot of walking in order to “hatch eggs,” find wild Pokemon and restock items at Pokestops. This has caused Brianna, the Union Catholic High School Pokemon Go fan, to modify her daily schedule.

“I play it every day. It makes me want to leave the house more.” If not for Pokemon Go, “I’d probably be in bed watching Netflix,” Brianna said.

Pokemon GO is making people walk more while most games make you sit down for hours on end,” Spencer said.

Rutgers student Rachel said, “I have a class at 10 p.m., and I walk for two hours at night hunting Pokemon.”

And that obsession to catch all the Pokemon has connected people who never met before.

“I’ve seen people meet on the streets and compare their Pokedex and trade tips,” Brianna said. “It’s a great way to meet people on common ground.”

Cyril agrees.

“My coworker jokes that Pokemon Go is the first step to world peace,” Cyril said.

 

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The Meteoric Rise of Pokemon GO