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A Columbia, KY Guide to Pokemon Go

Pokemon go is probably the biggest social phenomenon of 2016. There are tons of players, numbers so high that servers can't keep upwith demand. Within 5 days, Pokemon GO has more users than Twitter. The game has given young players a new, compelling reason to get out and explore and use their downtowns, and repeatedly visit parks, churches and libraries. Even if you don't play the game, that should be a pretty exciting development for anyone who values Walking Culture or works to keep Main Street relevant.

By Pen Waggener and Evan Waggener

What is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is the latest version of the 20-year-old Japanese game franchise, "the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind only Nintendo's Mario franchise." (Wikipedia). It's incredibly popular with teenagers, and also with Millenials who grew up with the characters.

Pokemon Go gameplay is a mix of Scavenger Hunt and King of the Hill. It's played on smartphones, using a free app and a mix of Google Maps, GPS coordinates, and a database of special real world locations, called PokeStops and Gyms. Players visit Stops for supplies, hunt and collect cartoonish Pokemon characters by moving around in the real world, and then visit Gyms to challenge each other's characters to battle it out for bragging rights at that location.

Augmented Reality: A pretty good excuse for a walk
Pokemon Go players can find Pokemon running wild anywhere. The game is based on Google Maps and GPS, so moving around in the game requires moving around in the real world.

While it's possible to play in a car, Pokemon Go works best on foot or on a bicycle. The game's loading graphic even depicts someone on foot, with a note to pay attention to your surroundings.

Gameplay is superimposed over a live image from the phone's camera, so that Pokemon seem to be running around in the real world, and all the players in the same location can try to catch the same Pokemon characters when they appear. It's imaginative gameplay that tends to get them involved in meaningful exercise and encourages teamwork and communication.

Important places in the game tend to be historically important places for people to gather in the real world, such as churches, libraries, parks, post offices, and historical markers.

In Columbia, the US Post Office and the fountain at the Justice Center are virtual Gyms, which players will visit to test their Pokemon against other players. (Control can switch frequently, but when we checked yesterday, the Gym at the Justice Center fountain was controlled by Blue Team's LunarMatt with a 748CP Vaporeon, and the Gym at the Post Office on Burkesville Street was controlled by Blue Team's PegWarrior, with a 945CP Snorlax. Ask someone under 25 to explain.)

Players can get supplies and find more than average numbers of Pokemon when they visit Pokestops. If you see groups of kids or young adults traveling around downtown looking at their smartphones, odds are good that they're checking in at one of the following virtual Pokestops in Columbia:
  • The Adair County Public Library on Greensburg Street
  • The Columbia Fire Department on Merchant Street
  • The Confederate Raiders historical marker at the old Courthouse
  • The Frank Layne Wolford historical marker by the Justice Center
  • The John B. Begley Chapel Fountain at Lindsey Wilson College
  • The Columbia Union Presbyterian Church on Burkesville Street
  • The First Baptist Church on Burkesville Street
  • The Second Christian Church on Burkesville Street
Some community benefits
As of July 12, 2016, the average daily usage of the Pokemon Go "app on Android devices exceeded Snapchat, Tinder, Instagram, and Facebook." (Wikipedia) The huge number of players in the virtual Pokemon world is having lots of real world effects.

Restaurants and coffeeshops near the Pokestops in many towns are finding a substantial increase in traffic, and the ones that welcome players are seeing increased sales because of it.

Lots of youth ministers have taken the opportunity provided by increased foot traffic at their churches to hand out water, provide wifi, or set up stations to recharge overworked cell phones, in exchange for some quality time with kids who might not otherwise have stopped by their church.

It may be a fad that's gone as quickly as it appeared--or this summer may end up as the Millenials' version of Woodstock--but for now Pokemon Go has given young players a new, compelling reason to get out and explore and use their downtowns, and repeatedly visit parks, churches and libraries. Even if you don't play the game, that should be a pretty exciting development for anyone who values Walking Culture or works to keep Main Street relevant.


This story was posted on 2016-07-13 17:09:05
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Virtual Columbia



2016-07-13 - Columbia, KY - Photo by Evan Waggener. Downtown Columbia as it appears to players of Pokemon Go. The blue squares represent Pokestops, which players can visit in the real world. From left to right are Public Library, the old Courthouse on the Square, the Fire Department, and the Justice Center. Jamestown Street is at bottom right.
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Krabby on Campus



2016-07-13 - Columbia, KY - Photo by Evan Waggener. Tons of people were playing Pokemon Go at lunchtime on Tuesday both inside and outside Cranmer Dining Center, with multiple people spotting this Krabby by the Chapel fountain.
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Virtual Campbellsville



2016-07-13 - Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Evan Waggener. Downtown Campbellsville's virtual map for Pokemon Go is a little more densely packed than Columbia's, with 2 Gyms and about a dozen Pokestops all within easy walking distance.
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