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GO Out and Play

by Sarah Sörne

Pokémon GO went live in mid-July of 2016, and no one could have anticipated how it would alter initial expectations that were made when its creator, Niantec Labs, debuted their commercial for the free mobile game during the SuperBowl. As you likely know by now, it took the world by storm, breaking initial download records and its own servers with the heavy capacity of users attempting to sign on.

I myself was introduced to Pokémon 20 years ago. The “pocket-sized” monster hunting game complimented the original GameBoy format—as I was able to catch and train Pokémon by traversing a rich digital world. Then, as now, you were encouraged to catch all of the Pokémon to complete Professor Oak’s (not so hunky as he is now) “Pokedex,” an index of all the mysterious creatures who could be collected and trained in order to evolve into st ronger forms. Just as Ash Ketcham in the TV series could not evolve Pikachu into his stronger form, I was reluctant to evolve my Ivysaur to its next evolution as a bigger, badder Venusaur. If all of this is Greek to you, hang with me a little longer. The game got so popular itself that it evolved into the aforementioned TV show, a trading card game (does anyone remember the push to find the elusive Charizard anywhere other than on the fledgling pages of eBay?) and many more expansions to
the original game all with the same simple mantra—“Gotta catch ‘em all.”

Fast forward to my early-thirties and I would not have imagined I would be picking up the Pokeballs again. Seeing the commercials left me thinking this was a game for the kids and a way for Nintendo to introduce these characters to a new generation, just in time for Pokémon’s 20th anniversary. Just as many when the game was first announced, I downloaded the free app to check it out—and was instantly hooked.

It started with a simple account set up and character creation, and soon I was able to view my avatar on a map of my own neighborhood. A quick spin around and I identified two of the game’s mechanics outside of catching virtual monsters—a gym and a Pokestop. The Pokestops are real-world locations (usually historical markers, unique signs and other places of interest) you can visit to pick up items to help you succeed on your journey. The gyms are places where you can fight your Pokémon against other players and get the prestige of being placed in the gym for all to see—and to collect coins. The real magic of this game is the geo-caching aspect that uses your device’s GPS to navigate the real world as if it is the virtual world, turning a simple walk at a park or a greenway into a fun journey where, yes, you can catch Pidgeys, Ratattas, Clefairys and, if you are lucky, even rarer varieties of Pokémon. With the app open, you can walk around until you reach points of interest or until your phone vibrates indicating that a Pokémon has been found in your vicinity. Even simple walks with my dog in the mornings and evenings have now become grand adventures where I can hope to stumble upon an elusive Dratini. Even more, playing the game has encouraged me to get out in the community and learn more about the history and art Tallahassee has to offer around every corner. One of the more poignant Pokestops is one near the bus station telling the story of a young man who boarded a Greyhound after a tearful goodbye to his parents, and he would never return home from the war.

Trips to Cascades Park and Lake Ella yield many players of all ages (often amusingly) walking around with smartphones in hand. I cannot fault them though as I have joined the shuffling hordes in order to gain bonuses for walking certain distances—in an effort to hatch eggs, one of the newer and more unique aspects of the game, and one that keeps me going! I have averaged walking 50 kilometers a month with the game open since its debut, and I have definitely been much more motivated to go on walks outside of the mandatory ones needed for my dog. Though some may describe these groups as “zombie-like,” new players to the game will discover that there is a great bit of camaraderie in asking others how to accomplish certain goals or for tips on how to improve their skills—especially since you will have to mostly rely on intuition while learning how to play.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to try out the game, or tried unsuccessfully to log on and play during its launch, I encourage you to give it a try now that the hype has (somewhat) died down. It’s fun for individuals, couples and families alike and can provide hours of healthy, outdoor fun exploring your own neighborhood or other parts of town.

Here are just some of the recommended Pokémon hunting spots around town. “Spawn” points for specific types of Pokémon change frequently, so GO out and see what you can find, and check back to favorite spots to see what’s new:

  • Lake Ella — A great circuit for both collecting Pokémon and supplies at Pokestops.
  • Tom Brown Park – Many Pokestops and a few gyms. Great Pokémon to be found near the playground.
  • Downtown Park Avenue – An excellent walk in the shade with a large number of historical Pokestops and random rare Pokémon that can be found intermittently.
  • Railroad Square and Gaines Street Corridor – Highly concentrated PokeStop circuit with many points of interest and eclectic local shops.
  • FSU Stadium, Intramural Fields and Landis Green – Excellent walks with Pokestops and a high chance of catching rarer Pokémon.
  • Goodwood Museum – A large number of Pokestops and a gym that cannot be re-taken when the grounds are closed.
  • Mission San Luis – Great historical walk with lots of Pokestops and Pokémon you usually can’t find anywhere else in Tallahassee.
  • Lafayette Park – Short fitness and hiking trail near Midtown that has a few Pokestops and is a “nest” for some types of Pokémon.
  • Apalachee Regional Park – Great hiking and biking trails for hatching eggs and collecting Pokémon.
  • Cascades Park – A decent circuit that does not yield as many Pokémon, but has some Pokestops and is a great place to increase your step count and work toward hatching eggs.

Have a favorite spot that we didn’t mention? Tell us here at tallahasseefamilymagazine.com or on our Facebook page!

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