Above: Players hunt Pokemon behind The Peoples Church
Have you seen random strangers wandering your neighborhood? Faces glued to their phone screens? Suddenly one of them yells out, “Guys! Guys! I caught a Squirtle!”
Don’t be alarmed; these people are merely playing Pokémon GO.
Yes, Pokémon. The game your children, or you, likely adored growing up has now been revived, and any person with a smartphone can download the free app and be in the shoes of Ash Ketchum or any other Pokémon trainer. Everyone from grade school kids to MSU students is in on the craze that is sweeping across America, East Lansing included.
That is, if the servers are not down.
Like many apps or games that become far more popular than the developer intended, Pokémon GO has its share of shortcomings, mainly its servers, which are frequently known to be overloaded due to the sheer number of people playing the game.
The game works by using the location services on a smartphone. The (free) Pokemon GO app places your character on the map, and Pokémon creatures will spawn in places on the map. Water type creatures tend to spawn near water, grass types in meadows, and fire type (ironically enough) around gas stations.
As a player walks around, their game character moves wherever they do. As they approach a Pokémon it pops up on the map, at which point they can tap on its image, and an animation opens up allowing the player to throw a Pokéball and capture it. A captured Pokémon can be trained, and battled against other Pokémon at area gyms.
Matt Hammerly will be a senior at MSU in the fall and plays Pokémon GO.
“It's neat how many people gather in parks and whatnot, and meet new people over Pokémon GO,” Hammerly said.
Will it still be full steam ahead come early September when all the students move back?
Hammerly thinks it will still be played but no longer a sensation. “I don't think it'll still be this huge in the fall, but I imagine people will still take over a gym if it's close to their class or something,” Hammerly said.
MSU senior Liz White-Hatton is also a fan.
“I've been on campus playing… I think I will still be playing it in the fall. Possibly less due to class load but I think it will be a fun distraction. Right now I play it on my way to and from work and on breaks with my coworkers,” White-Hatton said.
For now, you can meander around downtown East Lansing and see children on long boards intently staring down their iPhones as they glide past El Azteco or Pinball Pete’s hunting for an elusive or rare Pokémon that happens to be near.
So no, East Lansing is not being overrun with people seeing creatures that are not there, but merely people living out a childhood fantasy all thanks to a simple app that probably won’t go away anytime soon.