The Pokémon GO smartphone game app is sweeping the country and San Marino is no exception.
Players can be seen walking around the city looking for Pokémon characters hot spots such as Lacy Park and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The game mixes real-world locations with the fantasy world of Pokémon, encouraging players to explore their environment while searching for more than 100 species of Pokémon. As the player moves around, his or her smartphone will vibrate if a Pokémon character is nearby. To catch the character, the smartphone user has to throw a ‘Poké Ball’ at it. However, that character could run away if the player misses or doesn’t act fast enough. Players can take photos of the characters and snapshots of themselves and the characters in real-world settings with their smartphone’s camera.
There are ‘PokéStops’ at certain locations, like the Huntington Middle School tennis courts and San Marino Community Church, where players can gather more Poké Balls and other items.
Players get to choose and dress a character to represent themselves in the game as a ‘Trainer’ and that Trainer will be visible to other players at ‘Gyms.’ During the game, a player will be invited to join one of three teams and battle rival teams at gyms. Gyms are also at real world locations, such as the Crowell Public Library, Centennial Fountain and San Marino Fire Station. These gyms are controlled by one of three teams and change ownership depending on team success in the battles.
The Pokémon characters can be anywhere, including in the San Marino Tribune office sitting in Advertising Manager Joelle Conzonire Grossi’s chair.
San Marino Community Church Rev. Becca Bateman wrote a column for the San Marino Tribune last week about all of the recent sightings of people wandering around the church with their smartphones because it’s a PokéStop. She said she’s witnessed members of her youth group make connections with old friends while playing the game.
“The good news is it gets the player outside, not just virtually, but actually walking around the community—to places like churches!” Bateman said.
The Huntington has four gyms on its property and more than 60 PokéStops.
The Huntington’s Web Editor Christine Quach blogged, “Groups of players, referred to as trainers in the game, are roaming the grounds looking for Eevees, Growlithes, and other Pokémon characters they can ‘catch’ on their phones.”
City Librarian Irene McDermott has noticed an increased number of individuals playing Pokémon GO at the Crowell Public Library.
“Two weeks ago, after the craze broke, I discovered a group of about 10 teens on the library patio at about 8 in the evening,” she said. “They were battling! Since then, I haven’t seen a gathering like that. We welcome the attention. Anything to get teens to the library!”
Many local children, teens and adults are captivated by the game app.
McDermott, herself, is a player, explaining that her 20-year-old son, Peter McDermott, suggested it.
“I enjoy playing Pokémon GO because it encourages me to walk around while entertaining myself,” said incoming San Marino High School junior Charmaine Qui. “It brings me memories of my childhood of watching Pokémon cartoons.”
Another incoming SMHS junior Grace Li said, “Pokémon GO makes me really enjoy walking around the city instead of burying myself in AC and YouTube videos.” She said the game combines the concepts of getting healthy by walking and playing video games for the first time.
“I really like this game!” Li said.
“Pokémon GO is super fun, but you should always be aware of your surroundings!” incoming SMHS senior James Tsang said.
The game app has been making news this month not just because of its popularity, but sometimes what people encounter while playing it. Pokémon GO players have found dead bodies in San Diego; Nashua, NH and Riverton, Wyo. There have been complaints in various cities about players not paying attention, which led them into traffic or to dangerous locations. Two young adults fell off a cliff in Encinitas, Calif. while playing the game, suffering injuries.
Players also have tried to get into limited access destinations, such as jails. Covina Police Officer Tim Doonan recently tweeted, “Attention Pokémon Go players…..you may NOT access our jail. Please do not call and inquire.”
There have been some complaints about drivers trying to catch characters and swerving in roads. Pokémon GO is not meant to be played while driving. San Marino Police Chief John Incontro said the city has not had any issues involving the game yet, but officers are aware of the Pokémon GO craze and are monitoring the movement.
Niantic developed Pokémon GO and released it on July 6, 2016. It is free to download.
San Marino Tribune intern Lindsay Li contributed to this story.
Check out this week’s print edition of the San Marino Tribune for a collage of photos of local teens and adults playing Pokémon GO in San Marino and beyond.