On any given day, Olympia residents and visitors are wandering around, staring at their phones. The pedestrians are part of a phenomenon called Pokémon Go and it’s taking our town, and the world, by storm. “I love it. I have had more positive experiences with strangers playing the game than I have the previous years of my life,” says one player I met.

xeroxI decide to see what the craze is all about and download the app for my phone. I am definitely not a stranger to the latest technology, especially since I have a gaming master for a nine-year-old son. However, I had no knowledge of the world I was stepping into with PokéStops, gyms, Pikachus, Poké balls.

pokemon olympia
People of all ages have joined the Pokémon Go phenomenon. Folks linger at a Percival Landing PokéStop. Photo credit: Jessica Hoppe.

You start Pokémon Go by naming and building your avatar, including hairstyles, colors, and outfits. This will be your alter-ego throughout the game so chose wisely, although you can alter appearances later. After that, the game is simply to “catch ‘em all.”

To find Pokémon characters, you throw Poké balls at these little creatures that suddenly appear in all sorts of locations, including the sidewalk, your office, or even the table next to you at a restaurant. You can play Pokémon Go virtually anywhere. One player tells me, “I think people should be more aware of their surroundings and remember that safety is more important than catching them all.”

With more than 200 Pokémon to catch, the game seems rather endless. One way to advance your own game is to visit the numerous PokéStops around town. From churches to gas stations, PokéStops are all public locations where you can earn more Poké balls and other items to further your experience. Try stopping at Tumwater Falls Park or the smaller Decatur Woods Park for a great find. Marathon Park in downtown Olympia is another recommended spot. “It has brought people to the park in the evening. I count that as a positive. I mostly see families walking together with a couple of members playing,” says a fellow Pokémon player.

pokemon go olympia
Another place you may see a lot of people playing Pokémon Go is around Capital Lake, which has lots of PokéStops and gyms. Photo credit: Jessica Hoppe.

Our own Tumwater home sits across the street from a PokéStop. We watch people pass by the First Baptist Church at the intersection of X Street and Elm Street at all hours with their faces glued to their game. A friend tells me she even goes hunting late at night with a large group after work. “When new players show up, we’ll give them tips and pointers on how to best play the game and help them get started. We’ll tell each other if we find good spawn points for rare finds near us,” she says.

Once you have a fair collection of your own Pokémon you can use items to make them stronger, and in turn battle with other players at nearby virtual gyms. These Poké gyms are also at public spaces and allow people to interact more together and show their competitive side.  I like to watch the action at the Poké gym at Fairie Gardens in Tumwater.  Other local Poké gyms include Frog Pond Grocery near the capitol, Olympia Farmers Market, and the WET Science Center.  You can even get in on the action while stopping at the Thurston County Food Bank.

Percival Landing is a popular PokéStop. There are usually lures here to attract more Pokémon.  Try taking our downtown Olympia art walking tour – nearly every statue is a PokéStop.

pokemon go olympia
People say they play Pokémon Go for a variety of reasons, but mostly just for entertainment. Photo credit: Jessica Hoppe.

Pokémon Go is not just for the kids either. A friend tells me of her own experience living near a local retirement community. “You’ll see some more active seniors out doing their route to hit the PokéStops. The gym there is always controlled by a white haired avatar. I can just imagine how proud they are holding the gym in their community.”

But of course not everyone is happy with this new Pokémon craze taking place. Some people I spoke with say it’s unsettling to see so many people immersed in the game. “Walking the lake was surreal. All ages standing around in one area not talking and just looking at their phones. It felt like a freaky sci-fi movie.” Another person says, “Complete waste of time. We grew up playing outside and not with a phone in our hand.”

While these concerns are understandable, it seems more people find the game to be a positive thing. “I hear the hate about the ‘oh you should of been outside anyway’, but why? I find that as an adult it is hard to be outside without a goal in mind. If you don’t hike or play sports there is not a lot you can do to have interactions with other people outside. Meeting new people can be awkward and this game helps.”

pokemon go olympia
Pokémon Go does work off your phone’s data plan and will drain your battery quicker than normal usage. Photo credit: Jessica Hoppe.

Whatever your take is on Pokémon Go, it looks like it’s here to stay with new updates already happening on a regular basis and more people joining everyday. Personally, I enjoy playing occasionally when I’m walking the dogs or the passenger on a long road trip. We recently went to Montana and it was fun to get out at all the rest areas and look for new Pokémon characters. It’s a way for me to connect to my son and strangers, be outside, and get some added exercise at the same time. My advice, give it a try and decide for yourself if it’s a good fit for your own family to try and “catch ‘em all.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email