I started playing Pokémon in 1997. I was thirteen at the time. I began with the Limited Yellow Edition, which was favorable over Red or Blue because you could choose Pikachu as your starting Pokémon. I began my adventures on the screen of a Nintendo Gameboy. If you remember the Gameboy at all, the screens were a washed out green. I also remember constantly scrambling for “AA” batteries, swiping them from remotes and other electronics was frowned upon.

I traveled the digital world, experiencing my first “game grind”.  A grind is playing parts of a game over and over to level up, advance, and try to find rare objects and creatures. I memorized moves and learned the rock-paper-scissor strategy of the game. I beat the game within a few months, ravenous for more. All the while, like many other early Pokémon players, I day dreamed about playing Pokémon in the read world.  Who would my main Pokémon be? What would it be like to throw a poke ball and capture a creature myself?  These daydreams burned into my mind when I got my hands on this game.

What is Pokémon Go?

The premise of most Pokémon games is to use small creatures with different powers, to fight other creatures and capture them. Once captured, you can train and use them to capture others. It is a constant cycle of reward and excitement.

Pokémon Go is based off groundwork set by Niantic’s Inc, the minds behind Ingress, a popular augmented reality game. MiBurg published an article about Ingress game play, which you can check out here. Augmented reality games use real world locations and areas as the backdrop to the game. Physical locations are important game plots and resources, made possible through GPS, Google Maps, and cell phone cameras.

Pokémon Go is different then other Pokémon games. Instead of fighting other Pokémon to weaken them, you work to capture them with finger swipes on your smartphone. Once captured, you level up and evolve them to stronger, more powerful, forms. Make sure to visit a variety of locations, as Pokémon tend to hang out in areas that appeal to them. For example, you might find a water type near a lake or river.

In addition to “catching them all,” players visit real world locations called “PokéStops” or “Gyms.” PokéStops are frequently located at historical or recreational landmarks and allow players to collect valuable in-game items, such as PokéBalls or other useful gadgets. These items would otherwise cost the player real money to purchase. Because PokéStops provide advantages within the game, players explore the community while searching for them.

Gyms are designated areas to train and battle Pokémon. Players can either assign captured Pokémon to a gym to fight other trainers, or they can stay and play mini-games to level up. I noticed that most Gyms in our area are located at large meeting places such as churches.  Serious Pokémon Go players know to stop back at Gyms throughout the day to try their hand against a large variety of players and creatures. At level 5, players have the opportunity to join one of three teams, which help with character leveling and defense of gyms.

The game can be as simple or complex as you desire. What is revolutionary about Pokémon Go is the requirement to get out and explore the real world. Gone are the days where you sit on a cozy couch, spending hours plugging away at the game. Sure, you can try sitting in a comfy spot, waiting on an unsuspecting “JigglyPuff” to wander by, but your odds are significantly increased by exploring the town.

A few barriers to game play

  • A smartphone with minimum processing power is needed.
  • Wireless internet and GPS is required
  • Mobile data is ideal.
  • The game falls under the “Freemium” category. Although the game is free to play, you can purchase perks and items in game.
  • Because you need to leave the game open while searching for Pokémon, it can be a battery drain. Keeping a battery charger on hand is recommended.

Despite the few issues listed above, there are several personal and community advantages to Pokémon Go.

Help Community Organizations

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The WV Physical Activity Network uses Pokemon Go to engage with users.

Some non-profit organizations take advantage of the games popularity. Recently, a dog shelter asked players to walk dogs while hunting Pokémon. Nonprofit organizations can incorporate Pokémon Go into their services, resources, and fundraising activities. National Parks in Washington DC have stated that visitor numbers have significantly increased since the game went live, but cautions players to be aware of the appropriateness of game play in particular areas, such as the Holocaust Museum or the Arlington Cemetery.

Good for Business

An unintended benefit of Pokémon Go is the increase in business that corresponds with the release of the game. Some business owners use Pokémon Go as a way to drive sales, especially those businesses lucky enough to be designated PokéStops, such as Lewis’ Paint and Hardware in Martinsburg. Business owners have a great opportunity to connect with the game and drive traffic to their services and products.

Health Benefits

There are many articles about the benefits of exercise and playing Pokémon Go. I can vouch for this as well. A health app on my phone recorded 92 minutes of walking in one day. The app notified me that it was my most active day.

With those benefits in mind, safety to players is a concern. It is very important that people stay mindful of their surroundings as there are stories about injuries and accidents. The game makes a point to remind players to pay attention. Just today there was a report on Eastern Panhandle Working Fires about an individual in Jefferson County who fell over a sewer grate.

In game safety reminder

In game safety reminder

Meet New People

I found myself at Ambrose and Wurzburg Dog Park because there are two PokéStops sit at each corner of the park. It was there that I met two other players. We shared Pokémon sightings and game tips. The game provides common ground and makes it easier for people to get to know one another.

Connecting Families and Friends

I often hear positive stories about parents playing Pokémon Go with their children. Pokémon Go is a great game to play with family members and friends alike, building relationships. One co-worker shared that her bond with her daughter is stronger since they started walking around Shepherdstown, taking turns collecting Pokémon.

Do you have any great stories or tales about your experiences with Pokémon? Any great pictures of Pokémon you have captured in the Eastern Panhandle? As a business owner or non-profit volunteer, think of ways you might use this free windfall to promote your business. Share them with MiBurg, and we will share them on social media.

Use #PokemonInThePanhandle on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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