|Pictured directly above is a group of walkers who participated in a downtown PokeGo Walking Experience recently hosted by The TERF Project. More than 40 people attended the first TERF Project walk event. Another is scheduled for Aug. 2. Photo courtesy Tonia Rice Witt.
|Downtown abuzz with activity as players trying catch Pokemon
|By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
Downtown has been buzzing with activity recently as result of Pokémon Go. The game has taken the nation by storm since its release earlier this month.
The game centers around players attempting to catch hundreds of Pokémon characters as they walk through downtown or other areas of the community. It uses augmented reality, which according to Wikipedia, “is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.”
It has drawn so much local attention that The TERF Project hosted a PokeGo Walking Experience event July 19 that attracted 44 participants. Many others are taking part in the national phenomenon on their own as well.
City Councilwoman Danielle King said she has never seen as many young people downtown as she has the past three weeks.
“I think they’re taking advantage of the downtown improvements we’ve made,” King said. “I see more people sitting in the chairs we have downtown. It makes you proud that your downtown looks that good that people want to come downtown and visit.”
The Pokémon Go game is also bringing in a number of people from out of town to play, she noted.
During the process of trying to catch the virtual creatures on their mobile app, players are walking all across town, visiting churches, businesses, historical sites and city and government office buildings.
Participants are getting plenty of exercise, but also learning history and how city and county government work through information provided about the sites on the app.
“I think it’s a genius way to try to educate children about their surroundings and their town and get them physically active,” King said.
“It’s a fun, safe family event that gets both kids and adults up, moving and active,” TERF Project founder Tonia Rice Witt told the Advocate.
Witt said Pokémon Go has numerous benefits in that it:
• Requires you to get up and get moving.
• Requires you to go to places you’d never otherwise experience.
• Requires interaction of people from all backgrounds.
• Requires you to use your mind.
• It increases traffic flow to small town businesses.
• If you’re a tween/teen then it requires you to still need your parents and who knows, Witt said, you might just make some memories together.
• It’s a safe way to have fun and be active.
King, who is also a medical doctor, said the game has enormous physical benefits considering participants often walk multiple kilometers in a day during the course of the game. She has spearheaded local downtown revitalization efforts.
“I think it’s an amazing way to get kids up and about,” she said. “A lot of them play video games and that’s behind a TV screen. This is the first video game that is wanting kids to be mobile.”
King encourages parents to participate with their children. She said she and her son have had a chance to spend more time together and get exercise while playing the game.
“It’s a good way to get parents out with their children,” King said.
Mt. Sterling Police Chief David Charles in a social media post for the police dept. encourages the public to take part, but offered some advice to those who do. Among his tips are:
• Do not hide in the Post Office lobby and try to scare people (common sense)
• Do not play in Machpelah Cemetery (common respect)
• Do not hide behind a police car and try and startle an officer (not cool at all)
“Use good judgement when playing, enjoy the downtown area and be safe,” he said.
King also encourages people to be careful when they’re out and about and use common sense, especially when dealing with traffic.
The next PokeGo Walking Experience will be Tuesday, Aug. 2. Players will meet at 7 p.m. at 12 S. Bank St.
Nick Johnson of Brooklyn claims to be the first person to catch all 142 Pokémon available in the North American version of the game.
By catching them all he has a chance to build his collection even further. He has partnered with Marriott Rewards and will soon travel to Europe, Australia and Japan to catch rare Pokémon that are only available in those regions, according to a media report.
Johnson, 28, told the media that he lost between eight and 10 pounds playing the game.
The app is estimated to generate more than $1 million every day in revenue, according to media reports. Pokémon Go was developed by Niantic Inc., a company spun off from Google. Both Google and Nintendo hold stakes in Niantic and the Nintendo Co. owns 32 percent of the voting power with the Pokémon Co.