WESTFIELD (THE WESTFIELD NEWS) – It looks like the Whip City is full of weedles.
But if you don’t know what a weedle is, then you haven’t been consumed by Pokemon Go yet.
The mobile app Pokemon Go has become a sensation since its debut July 6, having an estimated 7.5 million downloads in its first
five days, according to app analytics company SensorTower. This has translated to players joining together in parks throughout Westfield, congregating together to try to “catch them all.” And while there are concerns that the new game will distract people and cause injuries, users are praising it due to promoting exercise and socialization.
“I’ve never seen so many people from different walks of life coming together,” Sam Darling, 18, of Westfield, said. “The whole aspect of going outside and playing helps with mental health, too.”
Darling was among the roughly 20 Pokémon Go players attempting to catch jynxes at the Tea House at Stanley Park yesterday evening. Jynxes, players say, can only be found at Stanley Park.
Pokemon Go is played in what is called “augmented reality.” Players–or trainers, in Pokemon parlance–use their phones’ GPS systems to navigate a map on the phone screen that is based on whatever location they are in. From there, trainers will see Pokemon–which are the animated animals that the game is known for–and they will try and catch them using red and white orbs called Poke balls. The trainer will swipe their finger toward the Pokemon and the Poke ball will go toward the creature like the trainer threw it. The trainer will then capture the Pokemon in the ball, and will be given points and other in-game items to promote their further participation and “leveling up.”
Once trainers have reached at least a level five in the game, they are then allowed to use their Pokemon in “Pokegyms.” These virtual gyms provide trainers with the ability to join one of three teams in the game, and also allow them to battle other Pokemon with their own and earn more points and in-game items. Often these gyms are placed at areas of social or cultural significance, such as murals, monuments or churches.
The game, although not a surprising hit, has indeed drawn people together. While the players give informal numbers as high as 60
players gathering at any given time, people can drive by Park Square in Westfield or walk through Stanley Park and will see people looking down at their phones, flicking their fingers on the screen and then clicking.
But instead of doing this alone, players have been coming together in areas because the game has “Pokestops,” which are designated areas where trainers get free items needed to help in their quests. Trainers can then put incense, which is used to attract Pokémon, on the Pokestop, drawing trainers and Pokémon alike.
These Pokestops are usually a place of interest or a landmark, such as the Tea House at Stanley Park, or the Civil War Monument near Park Square. So, in a way the locations, being in known public areas, could be considered safe. Additionally, it’s drawing people to areas that they may have been less likely to visit in the past.
Users of the app have said that the app has also been bringing people together from all sorts of backgrounds.
“A 44-year-old truck driver was playing with me the other day,” 24-year-old Westfield resident Josh Hall, said. “I even got my mom to play.”
Hall was playing the game at Park Square with his two friends and room mates, RJ Crockwell, 22, and Crockwell’s fiancee, Shaunna Patenaude, 20.
Patenaude also acknowledged that the game has opened people to more socializing.
“It gets people interacting with people they normally wouldn’t,” she said. “I’ve met quite a few new people and just started talking.”
Crockwell has appreciated the game not just because he can meet other people, but because it lets him feel like he is experiencing the game more and getting exercise.
“I love being able to walk around and be like a real Pokemon trainer,” Crockwell said.
Another trainer, Brett Peatman, 23, of Westfield, was playing alongside Darling at Stanley Park and echoed Crockwell’s
Peatman said “I wasn’t longboarding, I wasn’t walking, and now I have been out more than ever” due to the game.
However, there are critics about the game. On Facebook many people are questioning how safe the game can be, and multiple police departments throughout the U.S. have issued warnings related to the game. Police have been telling people that Pokémon Go can distract people while driving or while walking, which can lead to accidents and injury. However, Pokemon Go has attempted to curb this by opening the game every time its started with a warning to be aware of your surroundings.
Additionally, the game has led people to unsafe situations. In Wyoming, a woman found a man’s body in a river searching for Pokémon; in Missouri four teens were arrested after allegedly luring players to a certain area in the game and robbing them; in Washington two brothers came across a loaded gun in a field while hunting for Pokemon.
This has not spoiled the players’ desire to play, however. Instead, people continue to download the game and as the developers provide more updates to the software, including the addition of “trading” Pokemon with other players and quicker operating speeds, players will continue to congregate and try and catch as many Pokemon as possible.
So, next time you see someone looking down, phone screen aglow and fingers a-flicking, just ask them what Pokemon are nearby–and yes, the plural for Pokemon is Pokemon.Copyright 2016 The Westfield News