In 1998, the world was introduced to Pokemon Red and Blue, a video game that marked the beginning of what would become a multi-billion dollar franchise. Gameplay involved navigating yourself through a fictional region, while trying to become a Pokemon Champion. Mastering the game involved catching all 151 Pokemon, earning all eight gym badges, defeating the Elite Four (a group of trainers with very powerful Pokemon) and finally your rival.
Pokemon’s popularity was electric and would quickly draw in a large and loyal fan-base. Its popularity allowed Pokemon to spawn more games, an anime series, movies, trading cards and much more. Each game released broke sales records, and with the introduction of more generations of Pokemon, the attraction grew. Upcoming versions, Sun and Moon, are to be released in November later this year with a new generation of Pokemon.
Although the games received much praise both from players and reviewers, many avid fans of the game longed for the day when they would be able to catch their very own Pokemon in the real world. On July 6, that hope became a reality with the release of Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go is a free, mobile game that allows players to catch Pokemon in a virtual reality using the real world. The game starts by creating an avatar that moves using your GPS location. Once the avatar is created, the screen displays a map of your actual location, displaying streets, buildings, lakes and parks. The map includes a number of in-game features that players must physically travel to in order to interact with, including: PokeStops, where players can collect Poke Balls, eggs, potions and lures (all used to capture and attract Pokemon), Gyms, where players can send their Pokemon into battle to take over a gym, and encounter wild Pokemon that pop up on the screen and be captured.
In order to collect all of the 151 available Pokemon, players must explore and travel their neighborhoods as well as other cities, as not all Pokemon will appear in all locations. Water-type Pokemon will appear closer to lakes, rivers and oceans, while Grass-type Pokemon will appear near parks and forests.
Santa Clara’s own Central Park, Civic Center and Santa Clara University are areas where there are abundances of PokeStops and rare Pokemon. Since the virtual game’s inception, these areas and many more places around Santa Clara have seen increased traffic. And while some see this influx as a positive influence for businesses, others are skeptical.
Many residents have noted congestion on streets, an increase in loitering and a heedless regard for safety. Injuries from the game have been increasing as people gather and create mobs in a feverish search for rare Pokemon that appear in areas for a limited time.
Despite these criticisms and some technical issues, the game’s future is promising. Over 40 million people have downloaded the game around the world; a number that continues to grow. Stocks for the game’s developers have risen and an increased interest in Pokemon looks to boost sales for further installments.
For Santa Clara, the game brings a renewed awareness and interest in the city’s history and landmarks, as most of these places are PokeStops, and has the potential to increase profit among the local businesses.