Before Sunday, I had never heard of Pokémon Go, the cellphone-based augmented reality game that has swept the nation—and the world—and sent Nintendo's stock skyrocketing. I've never played a game on my cell phone. I didn't catch Pokémon the first ...
Before Sunday, I had never heard of PokÃ©mon Go, the cellphone-based augmented reality game that has swept the nationâ€”and the worldâ€”and sent Nintendoâ€™s stock skyrocketing. Iâ€™ve never played a game on my cell phone. I didnâ€™t catch PokÃ©mon the first time around. Our Nintendo gathered dust when I was a kid.
But late Monday (July 11) afternoon, Iâ€™d hit a wall after a day at my computer in an air-conditioned office where everyone was talking about PokÃ©mon Go. Iâ€™d seen photos suggesting the gameâ€™s players were a sweet, smiling bunch, many of whom were gathering in Central Park.
Â I spoke to friendly strangers, visited sites Iâ€™d never seen in Central Park, and almost stepped on a live rat. Â Some of them were even making love connections. My curiosity got the better of me. I downloaded the app, and went outside. After 90 minutes of playing PokÃ©mon Go, I found it to be a pretty wholesome New York experience. I spoke to friendly strangers, visited sites Iâ€™d never seen in Central Park, and almost stepped on a live rat. Here are my tips.
1. PokÃ©stops may help you discover landmarks you never knew existed
A PokÃ©stop at the edge of Central Park.(Quartz/Jenni Avins)What is a pokÃ©stop you ask? It is not, sadly, a stop serving the Hawaiian treat known as pokÃ©. Rather, it is a virtual signpost that corresponds to a real-world location where youâ€™re likely to find a PokÃ©monâ€”the creatures youâ€™re trying to â€œcatch.â€ The first PokÃ©stop I encountered was an Irish repertory theater Iâ€™d never noticed around the corner from my office. I pointed my cellphone at the window in an effort to alert the game to my presence. A theater employee exited and told me a new show was opening soon. Great!
2. Playing this game on your phone will make you think everyone else on their phone is playing this game. Theyâ€™re not
I approached a woman in a red dress at the corner of 22nd and Seventh, assuming the green grid on her phone was the gameâ€™s interface. She ignored my question about PokÃ©mon, and simply asked me which way to Eighth Avenue. Sheâ€™d been looking at a map. On the bright side, I gave her directions!
3. But some of them areâ€”and youâ€™ll get to talk with them
After my encounter with the red dress lady, I felt self-conscious about seeming like a creep and spoke only to potential PokÃ©mon players who were in groups.
Under the statue at Columbus Circleâ€”another PokÃ©stopâ€”two whiskered, ropy men sat on skateboards with their cell phones out. They told me they had been playing PokÃ©mon Go since the game was released on July 6. Armando, 24 and wearing a Thrasher t-shirt, told me the drivers at the art handling company where he works had been stopping the truck all day to catch PokÃ©mon. His brother Diego, 27, was visiting from Fort Irwin, a military training base in the Mojave Desert, where virtual reality takes the form of simulated Afghan battlefields. (A redditor wrote, dejectedly, that there are no PokÃ©mon back at Fort Irwin.)
4. Recreational spaces in broad daylight are lovely places to PokÃ©mon (Is this a verb? Iâ€™m going with it.)
Here we go.(Jenni Avins)The Terraza Brothers told me Central Park is full of PokÃ©stops and showed me how they appear on the map. Although I had already caught a couple of PokÃ©mon on the city sidewalks, I felt like a nuisance to the pedestrians around meâ€”and potentially not safeâ€”as I wandered distracted on my phone. I was also a little afraid of being caught by someone I knew.
City PokÃ©mon vs. Park PokÃ©mon(Jenni Avins)5. Even though the servers might be slow, or even crash, just chill
After entering the park, I sat on a rock in the shade while a wheel spun in the upper lefthand corner of my screen, before receiving a message: â€œFailed to get player information from server.â€
I love this game.(Jenni Avins)It occurred to me, sitting there, that the real life park looked very much like a video game, people dwarfed by the trees, towering and shimmering in the evening light. I saw a man napping with headphones on, using his seltzer bottle as a pillow, and thought that looked like a pretty good game, too.
6. Keep your eyes on the road
As my phone battery dwindled, I wandered down a shady path Iâ€™d never encountered in the park. A couple trained their phones on a tree, and I assumed they were trying to catch a Zubatâ€”a winged creature I had downed a bit earlierâ€”but then realized they were photographing an actual blue jay. It was beautiful! I pointed my phone at the path and returned to my virtual PokÃ©mon hunt.
I saw some real ones.(Jenni Avins)As I slowly walked alongside a waterfall Iâ€™d never seen before, two rats emerged from a shrub next to the footpath. Not Rattata, the PokÃ©mon that can win you 6 points of â€œRattata candyâ€ (whatever that means). No, a pair of non-virtual, non-animated, very real-life rats, nearly the size of small squirrels, ambled directly in front of me about a yard away. No harm, no foul.
7. Prepare for phone death
This game will rapidly drain your phone battery. After about 90 minutes of running the app, my iPhone had less than 10% of its battery left. Some people might prevent this with a portable charger. I met Zion, 21, Diante, 23, and Laura, 26, all of whom had spent the day off from their retail jobsâ€”at DNA Shoes, Rag & Bone, and CVS, respectivelyâ€”PokÃ©moning at the park. They one-upped the portable charger idea:
â€œWe have books and a blanket, and a giant bowl of fruit,â€ said Laura.
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