Published on July 26th, 2016 | by Chris Butts0
Pokemon Go Stirs Up Local Business, Fitness, & Community
The sculpture in front of the Powerhouse, Lake Patsy at Lamar Park, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the broken sundial behind City Hall, the free puppies painting outside of High Point. Before July 5, 2016, these locations throughout town had nothing in common. Today, however, they are often occupied by people of all demographics holding their phones at bizarre angles and walking in circles, because they are all Pokéstops.
A Pokéstop is a checkpoint in the game Pokémon Go, which has taken the world by storm this month. In this game, players live out their childhood dream by collecting Pokémon, joining a team, and competing against other teams to control gyms, which like Pokéstops, are at designated locations on the app’s GPS system. When someone successfully overthrows whoever had previously claimed the gym, the gym changes to blue, red, or yellow, for team mystic, team valor, and team instinct, respectively. One of the various effects the game has had is increased business at certain spots in town.
Jimi Meyers, the manager at High Point, noted that the app’s popularity had brought several groups of people to the outside of the coffee shop throughout the day. Although he does not play the game, he has encouraged his employees to embrace the phenomenon by making Pokémon-inspired drinks such as a Pica-ccino and a mint chocolate drink called the Bulbasaur, in hopes to turn players into customers.
A Facebook Group called “Pokémon Go Oxford, Ms” emerged a couple days after the app’s launch, and it now has over 200 members. The group is a smaller, more organized representation of the larger community that emerged naturally as a result of players running into each other at various destinations throughout town. Although many players hunt with an enthusiasm that came from growing up with the show, movies, and video games, they welcomed a newb like me with open arms. I met with Peyton Perry and Robbie Abbott, two of the Facebook group admins, at a Pokestop above Faulkner’s grave to discuss the community that had emerged.
Abbott mentioned that he had been anticipating the game’s release for over a year now, but the couple didn’t realize how big it was going to be until a few days after the app’s release.
“I was really surprised when we first got it up that there were so many people in the grove and around town. The level of nerdyness that has come out in Oxford has so been great,” Perry elaborated.
Moms, dads, gamers, and frat guys alike are all participating. While some fitness junkies have simply incorporated the game into their running schedule, it has given the rest of us a significant degree of motivation to get out of the house more. Abbott estimated that he had probably walked 30 miles in the past four days when I spoke with him.
Some of the most popular spots to play in Oxford include the Square, Avent Park, Lamar Park, and campus. When players run into each other, they point out to each other the specific spots where they had found certain Pokémon, although this information is sometimes only shared between players on the same team. Additionally, players share tips regarding other game features, such as evolving basic Pokémon to more advanced powerful Pokémon, hatching eggs, which is only accomplished through walking distances ranging from two kilometers to ten kilometers while the app is open, and even safety tips.
“We met two people who were like be careful on campus because we almost got ran over twice from people playing Pokémon Go while driving,” explained team instinct trainer Christina Nguyen.
I spoke with Lieutenant Hildon Sessums about the Oxford Police Department’s perception of the game, and fortunately there have not been any wrecks or arrests directly related to Pokémon Go so far.
“I think the only thing that we’ve had has been suspicious vehicle calls,” Sessums explained. “Be mindful that you should never use your phone and drive at the same time. Be mindful of going into businesses and private property. If you weren’t invited, that could be an issue. And also there are parks that are closed after dark and so are our cemeteries, so if you’re on a park after dark, you’re technically trespassing. I want everyone to be safe and be mindful of their surroundings, because there have been instances in other cities where people have been robbed.”
Two events have been planned on Friday July 29 for Pokémon Go trainers to join together and play in the same location. The first is a meet-up in the atrium by High Point, and the second is a PokéPub crawl at various bars on the square. Joseph Brummett, the coordinator of this event, explained that he believes the game is a wonderful bridge between gamers, outdoorsmen, and fitness groups.
“The general idea of the event would just be to set down a bunch of Lure modules and have people walk around to catch a whole horde of Pokémon,” Brummett said in an email. “It’s a great way for complete strangers to make friends.”