ST. ALBANS – Taylor Park in downtown St. Albans has seen an unusually high amount of foot traffic over the last three weeks. On any given afternoon, the park has been full of people of all ages playing Pokemon GO, a game for Android and iOS devices that integrates physical activity with Nintendo Inc.’s massively successful Pokemon video game franchise.
GO has risen to become the most downloaded mobile game in the United States since its July 6 release. Forbes estimates that the game had been installed on over 10 percent of all Android devices within a week, and its massive worldwide success caused Nintendo’s stock to soar in a matter of days.
On Sunday afternoon there were approximately 35 people in Tyalor Park, many clearly playing Pokemon, with a wide range in ages, including families. One boy was seen running across the park yelling, “Dad, I caught an Eevee.”
An Eevee is a four-legged Pokemon with a bushy tail and long ears, sort of like a cross between a fox and a rabbit. It’s not a great fighter, but is very good at running away.
A large part of the game’s charm and cross-generational appeal comes from its diverse cast of characters. One hundred and forty-five Pokemon can currently be caught, ranging from Pidgey (a small, hawk-like bird) to Gyarados (a colossal sea serpent) to Geodude (a very angry rock).
In Pokemon Go, wild Pokemon appear in a map on the player’s phone. Players, known in the game as trainers, have to walk around outside to catch the Pokemon, which they do using a PokeBall.
At the start of the game, trainers receive a limited number of PokeBalls and an incubator for hatching eggs containing Pokemon. Eggs, more PokeBalls and other supplies can be retrieved from PokeStops. There are four such stops in the park and another three on Church Street, making the park a draw for players.
Fiddlehead Dental has both a PokeStop, at the horse sculpture, and a gym, where Pokemon can battle, at the stegosaurus sculpture. Co-owner and stegosaurus sculptor Lynda Ulrich said she hasn’t noticed an increase in people outside the Fiddlehead building, but people often stop to look at the art.
Ulrich added that although she has seen negative media about Pokemon Go anything that gets people out exploring their community can’t be bad.
Other stops include a number of historic buildings such as One Federal and Holy Angels.
Hatching eggs isn’t as simple as putting them in an incubator. Eggs can only be hatched by walking, running or biking a specific distance. The more rare the Pokemon inside the egg is, the more distance a player must travel to hatch it. Distances to hatch an egg range from two to 10 kilometers, of 1.2 to 6.2 miles.
Players can also cause their Pokemon to evolve and become stronger, acquiring more abilities to use in battle at the gyms.
To evolve a Pokemon, the player must feed it candy, which trainers receive every time they capture a new Pokemon. Thus, players are encouraged to catch as many Pokemon as possible, which means walking or biking.
Each trainer begins at level one and gradually advances as they catch more Pokemon. As the player “levels up” more Pokemon become available for capture. Players are also prompted to join one of three teams: Valor, Mystic, or Instinct.
Each team attempts to control gyms in order to gain PokeCoins, an in-game currency that can be spent on items to catch more Pokemon or expand the number of Pokemon they can have at one time. When a team gains control of a gym, members of that team can leave their Pokemon there to defend the Gym from the rival teams, who have the opportunity to take control of the gym by battling with their Pokemon.
Each Pokemon has a type, and that can determine their ability to resist attacks from other Pokemon, Water types, for example, are able to resist attacks from Fire types.
This all sounds dreadfully complicated to those who didn’t grow up with Pokemon, but a decent portion of GO‘s users are adults who have never played a Pokemon game before now. It may be the chance to exercise while playing that draws them or maybe it’s the Pokemon themselves, which can be whimsical and kind of charming.
Players in their twenties and thirties are playing the game for a much more obvious reason: nostalgia. The first entries in the Pokemon series were released in 1996, and playing GO allows trainers who played the Game Boy and Nintendo DS games to relive the experience that captured their imaginations as children.
Regardless of age, it’s hard to not feel a sense of childlike glee upon catching your first Pokemon.