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July 13, 2016 - 12:23am

Even in Batavia, Pokemon are everywhere

posted by Howard B. Owens in Pokemon Go, games, batavia, news.

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     The gym at HLOM

See the people walking around town staring at their phones? You may have seen more of them these past few days. It's easy to assume they're checking a social media account or texting. That assumption is likely incorrect in each and every case.

Actually, nearly every one of those people you see, usually in twos or threes, with noses down, eyes locked on their smartphone screens, are playing a game, a game that gets people off the couch, out of the house, onto the street and doing something Luddites often complain people don't do in the always-connect age: talking with each other.

The game is Pokemon Go, a version of the iconic Pokemon game updated for the era of smartphones.

What all these people are looking at is a virtual world superimposed on the real world, a world you can't see unless you download the app and create an account. They are seeing a world populated by the likes of wartortlesbutterfrees and caterpie, hunting for pokespots and gyms, building their strength and resources for their team to battle for control of those gyms.

"I've had it since Friday night," said Michael Snyder, of Batavia. "I saw my brother running to get a Pokemon over by Kelsey Road and he said, 'you gotta get this game.' He said, 'It's so much fun,' and it is. It motivates me to get outside and it's so much fun."

Pokemon started in the 1990s as a card game and players traded cards much like baseball cards. In 2006, the first video game was made for GameBoy and the Pokemon franchise has been one of Nintendo's most popular games every since, but Nintendo had largely ignored the mobile market until the release of Pokemon Go.

Since then, Pokemon Go is the most downloaded app (more than 7.5 million downloads) in both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store. Nintendo's stock has gained $7.5 billion in market value in two days. Even though the game is a free download, in-app purchases have reportedly generated more than $14 million in revenue (Google and Nintendo reportedly invested $30 million in developing the game).

The game uses technology first built for another social playing game developed by a former Google employee and leverages data from Google Earth. 

When you download the game, you design your avatar and then see your avatar standing on a map of your real-life community. The location of your avatar corresponds with your actual physical location. If you're at home, your avatar is on the map where your house should be (buildings are not shown). If you get out and walk about, then your avatar walks along the street and turns as you turn.

If you happen upon a Pokemon, then you try to flick a white and red ball at it to capture it. Sometimes you miss, sometimes you snare it and then it escapes, and sometimes you get to keep it.

The first goal of Pokemon is to "catch 'em all." (Link: How to play Pokemon Go.)

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     Time to catch a Zubat.

The more you capture the more you can do with the game. You move up levels, your Pokemon can evolve and you incubate the eggs you acquire pokestops so you get more Pokemon. At level five, you can join a team. The teams are Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue) and Valor (red). Once you're on a team, you can capture a gym for your team and train in a gym and defend your gym. The stronger and more evolved your Pokemon, the better your chances of capturing a gym and holding a gym from attacks by other teams.

"I've been playing Pokemon since I was a kid," said Luis Ortiz, of Batavia. "Even as a kid, you would wish something like this would come out and it finally has."

The game is popular, people say because it gets you outside and you meet people and make new friends.

Ortiz was at the Peace Garden Tuesday afternoon, as were about a dozen other people. That used to never happen on a typical  day, even one as sunny and pleasant as Tuesday, but that crowd was nothing like the one several people said was there on Monday night (or we witnessed on Tuesday night). As many as 30 people were in the garden at one time.

The garden has become Batavia's Pokemon hotspot because it contains two pokespots and there is a gym at the Holland Land Office Museum.

Pokespots are locations where you can fill your satchel with balls to capture Pokemon with, perhaps get eggs, and they are also places where you will find lots of Pokemon to a capture. The pokespots act as lures for Pokemon.

"The game gets people closer," Ortiz said. "We came out here last night another were about 25 to 30 people here walking up and down, saying, ‘Hi', so it’s really cool. It gets you outside and you get to do stuff."

Maximus Mantrow, from Greece, was driving his girlfriend past the garden this afternoon and she had her app open. They spotted the pokespots, the gym and several people in the garden, so they decided to stop.

"It’s cool," Mantrow said. "You meet a lot of cool people, you start talking, you make friends. It's fun."

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     St. Joe's

Montrow said he's always been a fan of Pokemon, but he wasn't planning on downloading the game until he did and now he's hooked.

"I was like 'I don’t know about this', but I was playing a little more and it’s got that addictive nature to it, you know," Montrow said. "You get this one and then you’re like, ‘oh, I can catch that one, too, and I can catch that’ and after that, you can evolve it into something else. It’s just a lot of fun."

Sarah and Sophie Matlow drove from Le Roy to Batavia this afternoon and were walking through Downtown (they didn't even know about the Peace Garden treasures yet) because there isn't that much Pokemon activity in Le Roy.

“I like Pokemon too much for a 17-year-old girl," said Sophie, a student at Le Roy High School, and Sarah, a student at Alfred State College, added, “and I just wanted to play it with her."

As we talked, a young man walked by and said, yes, he was playing, too, and added, "I just captured that gym," which is on East Main Street.

"Everyone is playing this game right now," Sarah said. "It’s crazy."

App user stats bear out the sense that Pokemon Go is wildly popular already. Besides being number one in the app stores, the average daily use of those who download it already exceeds all other social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

Besides the social benefits of Pokemon Go, users say they love the idea of going outside and actually walking around to play a video game. They recognize health benefits.

"I've read about people getting leg cramps because they’ve been playing Pokemon Go so much; so people, like, hate on it so much because it actually makes you move, but it’s great," Sophie said.

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More of the story and more photos after the jump (click the headline or "read more" below):

Walking is integral to the game. It's hard to get enough points to advance to the next level without walking (move too fast and the game suspects you're driving or riding in motorized transportation). You also need to walk to incubate your eggs to hatch new Pokemon.

Interestingly, the State of New York, of course, issued a warning to avoid driving while playing Pokemon Go, but also warned against walking while playing.

Not only is it safer to capture Pokemon while walking, it's also easier, which is one reason why the Peace Garden is so popular, but there are also plenty of other places around Batavia to go for Pokemon action. There are pokespots at the sundial at City Hall, the City Fire Station, the Cary Mansion historical marker, Richmond Memorial LIbrary, the Harvester Center, the Morgan Monument, Rotary Park, Batavia Downs, two at St. Joe's and two at DeWitt Recreation Area.  There are gyms at the Upton Monument, on the northeast corner of Centennial Park, at the Pok-A-Dot, a block further south on Ellicott Street, the Methodist Church in Batavia and the War Memorial on Harvester Avenue. Drive out on West Main Street Road and you'll find as-yet-barely-used Poke hunting ground. There is a gym at Dave's Ice Cream and two nearby pokespots.

This is some of what we've found so far:

Most pokespots are at monument and marker locations. Churches are also another frequent location for pokespots and even gyms. When you arrive at the spot, the game not only confers benefits for getting there but also serves up a little historical information about the game.

That is one part of the game that pleases Jeffrey Fischer, director of the Holland Land Office Museum. He thinks it's great that people are learning about HLOM, local history, and the Peace Garden. He would like to find a way to get more trainers into the museum itself and maybe take a little tour (hint: there are in fact Pokemon inside the building).

"I was pleasantly surprised when I download the game," Fischer said. "I saw immediately that the museum was a gym and I was very happy that Google (which supplied the mapping and market info to the game makers) was able to incorporate local landmarks into its system like that.

Then he chuckled and added, "I would love to eventually get my training level up high enough to be the gym leader here. We'll see."

HLOM Assistant Director Katie Sergel was curious Monday night about how the game was going over in Batavia, so at about 10:30 she went for a drive.

"I drove by the Cary Manson marker and saw eight people there," she said, "and I thought 'that’s not a normal hangout spot, so they’ve got to be playing Pokemon', so I said, ‘let’s drive by the museum’ and the parking lot is full and at least 25 or 30 people out there."

That much traffic naturally raises a little concern that people be respectful of the grounds and museum, so Sergel was working on signs today asking trainers to please be cautious and careful.

Fischer was curious what the police might think of seeing all these people out late at night, walking around in groups, staring at their phones, when normally the streets would be quiet.

Sgt. Chris Camp, normally the swing shift commander for Batavia PD, said it didn't take long for him and the officers on his shift to catch onto what was going on. There have been no trouble reports, he said, and so far, everybody just seems to be having a good time.

"Obviously, we can look into it and see what are they up to, but like I said, a lot of times, they’re jovial," Camp said. "They’re laughing and you can tell that they’re engaged in a fun activity and not anything malicious, and they’ve all got their phones up to their face, so it’s not hard to tell what they’re doing."

Tuesday evening, two officers responded to a report of a group of people wandering on Central Avenue and acting suspicious. When officers arrived, the group was gone, but one of the officers said, yes, she was expecting to find Pokemon Go players.  

The officers said there are players out everywhere they go these days.

"We're seeing people out we never see out," one of the officers said.

The players are easy to spot, one officer said, because they're looking at their phone differently than if they were texting.

The area around Pringle Avenue is fertile Pokemon hunting grounds because there is a pokespot in Pringle Park.

The officers did say are concerned about people's safety. 

One officer said he saw a young man run across a street and almost get hit by a truck, "chasing a spot in the road."  

The game warns people on its startup screen that they need be cautious, be alert, and be aware of their surroundings.

There has been a report of one player elsewhere being hit by a car, and also a report of three people lying in wait at a pokespot in Missouri so they could rob them. 

One of the most interesting Pokemon Go stories making the rounds in social media comes from the first night of the game. A man who can't sleep heads out for a walk in a nearby park. After walking awhile, he hears, "yo, my man." 

There's two men sitting  on a bench and one says, "My man, check over by the blue truck over there we got an onyx earlier."

He captures an onyx and goes back and starts chatting with the two men. Then a cop shows up.

"So it turns out two twentysomething black dudes and a 40-year-old white guy chilling in the park at 3 a.m. looks strange," the man said. "It took a bit of talking to convince the cop we weren't doing a drug deal, and a bit longer to explain the game."

The cop downloaded the game and asked for instructions on how to get started. (Link: Post on Reddit (language warning))

That's the essence of the game, making new friends and building bridges, which something several trainers we talked to said was refreshing about the game, especially coming on the heels of a pretty difficult week in the United States.

"You meet nice people," said Jeff Hall, a Batavia resident we met in the Peace Garden. "It brings everyone together. No one is hating on each other. Right now, with what's going on everywhere, you know, the world, and the U.S. especially with Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, we're not seeing it. Everyone is interacting, being friendly, so it's nice."

Which is why more people should jump in and play, Sarah and Sophie said.

"If you’re not playing, play it," Sarah said.

Sophie quickly added, "Tell everyone to play this game. It gives a common ground to people."

Top photo: Maximus Mantrow, left, Michallena Root and Jeff Hall.

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Maximus Mantrow

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Sabastian Rodriquez, Luis Ortiz, Alexandria Ernst and Justin Ortiz.

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Jeff Hall

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Katie Sergel

Below: Photos from Tuesday night at the Peace Garden, HLOM and St. Joe's (bottom one).

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jeff saquella
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Joined: Sep 30 2008 - 5:22pm

yes i see them...but they don't see me...twice tonight i almost ran over them as they stepped down off of curbs and into my path.....i know we have to look out for them but my god people look up from your phone once in awhile

Ed Hartgrove
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"So it turns out two twentysomething black dudes and a forty-year-old white guy chilling in the park at 3 a.m. looks strange," the man said. "It took a bit of talking to convince the cop we weren't doing a drug deal ..."

Again, "It took a bit of talking to convince the cop we weren't ..."

How about saying, "I don't answer questions. Have a good night, Officer!"?

I don't understand why anyone, police included, feels they have a right to know what I'm doing. If you can't articulate a crime that you suspect me of committing, PLEASE, don't bother me!

Six months after I moved to Florida, I was on my way to the supermarket, one night. A cop made a U-turn and pulled me over. I had no idea why, so I waited until he walked up to my car. He asked me for my license, registration and insurance. I handed them to him, and he said I had a headlight out (it was @ 8PM).
OK. He went back to his car (probably ran my info) and came back. Then he asked me where I was coming from. "The house where I live", I said (the address was on my ALL 3 pieces of my info -and, a quarter-mile from where he pulled me over).
Then he asked me where I was going. "To the Publix (supermarket), I told him (about a half-mile from where we were).
Then he asked me why I was going there. I told him that was none of his business.
OOPS! Guess that one caused him to get butt-hurt.
He said, "Excuse me!"
I told him, AGAIN, it was none of his business why I was going there. I told him, "Look. You pulled me over for a headlight out. Either write me a ticket, or let me go on my way. I'm 63 years old, and I certainly don't have to explain my life's history, or future, to you."
He started in on some stupid thing like "I'm just asking questions ...".
I stopped him in mid-sentence and told him, "I wasn't driving down the road to get into some discussion with a stranger about where I've been, where I'm going, or what I had for lunch. Either write me a ticket, or let me be on my way. I have nothing more to discuss with you".
I got about a 5-second stare, he gave me back my papers, and told me to get my headlight fixed.
I told him I'd stop at the Autozone across from Publix and put the headlight in tomorrow. Oh, I also told him to have a good night.

I just wasn't in the mood to sit and explain myself to anyone. If I wanted to do that, I'd wait until I saw him in a McDonald's and buy him a cup of coffee, and then sit down for a conversation.

Brenda Ranney
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I'd like to clearly state that despite there being a chance of a Pokemon located on my property all trespassers will be sprayed with my garden hose.

Howard B. Owens
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On a day like today, Trainers might seek your place out in that case.

Brenda Ranney
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Already have had two instances of theses "trainers" wandering around my postage size backyard. It was mildly amusing until 2 tripped & fell over a garden bed.
Putting in a call to my insurance agent for clarification on if I'm liable for injuries.

Other day saw a near miss on Main St.

Michael Peet
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Brenda if you don't want any pokemon trainers on your property you should put up some no trespassing signs. It's better than using the hose on them.

Brenda Ranney
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Michael, already have a no trespassing sign posted. Besides since when has it become common practice to just wander into someone's property without permisson ?
The flaw in your remedy is that would entail "trainers" to actually look up from their phones to see my no trespassing sign.

And yes I do enjoy turning the hose on them ah la Walt Kowalski in Grand Torino.

Tim Miller
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In theory the Pokespots (or wheatever they are called) are not supposed to be on private property... although that does bring to question the frequent use of churches as Pokespots as churches, though frequently welcoming of visitors, are considered private property.

I read a quip the other day about a guy in his 20s playing Pokeman Go, tracking a creature. He sees a man in his 60s walking a dog, and then a bunch of kids come around the corner going after the same creature. Suddenly, the creature disappears and the kids are all baffled, so the guy knows the kids didn't get it. The guy walking the dog walks by and says "punks think they're gonna get my Pokeman...".

;-)

Jim Urtel Jr
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It proves just how simple-minded the human brain has become.

Ed Hartgrove
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Joined: Dec 20 2012 - 11:54am

Just heard, on WINK radio (Ft. Meyers, FL), that people have started to name their newborn children after Pokemon characters.

See Hermie.
See Hermie hide.
See Hermie hide on his underside!

See Pidgeot.
See Pidgeot fly.
See Pidgeot fly when they stuff him in that pie!

See Machop.
See Machop flop.
See Machop flop when I bash him with my mop!

AH-H-H-H!
The new pre-K Reader.
Dick and Jane - are just too plain - and Spot just ain't that hot!

O Theia, O godess of vision and foresight,
I beg of you. Please come and save us Earthlings.
We know not - much of anything, I believe!

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