by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
|Thomas J. Harrison Pryor Public Library in Oklahoma.|
Have you seen the groups of people standing around Litchfield looking at their phones lately? Chances are they’re playing Pokemon GO. This new augmented reality game has caught on like wildfire, bringing people out to public places to catch and battle Pokemon, gather virtual supplies, and put on miles of walking.
In case you haven’t heard about Pokemon from kids who were into it sometime during the past twenty years, Pokemon are “pocket monsters” from a Japanese card game, series of video games, and an animated TV show. It was created by a man who enjoyed collecting insects as a child, hence the collecting aspect of the game. Pokemon GO is a brand new game for smart phones that incorporates a phone’s camera and maps in brand new ways.
I’ve learned about Pokemon GO because two of my teenagers are enthusiastically playing it. Most of the groups I’ve seen around Litchfield, Dassel, and Hutchinson that appear to be playing it together are teenage boys and young men, but people of all ages are joining in. My elementary-age niece and nephew are playing it, a cousin who is older than me is, too, and I hear that it’s popular among a wide range of ages in the cast of the musical my kids are in.
Because of my kids, I found out during Watercade that the Litchfield Library is a PokeStop. This means it’s a place where players can stock up on useful virtual items for playing the game. Many public and commercial buildings are PokeStops. It sounds like some stops are especially good, and from what my kids found during two visits to the library, our location seems to be one of those.
The clock outside in front of the library is a gym, which is a place for Pokemon to battle. Those are a bit more rare than PokeStops, and they’re usually landmarks of some kind. I find it very surprising that the game creators had any way to find out the library’s clock existed, but apparently these locations were marked by players of an earlier, unrelated game.
So if you see people gathered near the clock in front of the library, looking at their phones, don’t be alarmed; they’re probably playing Pokemon. We are seeing kids coming into the library looking for Pokemon to catch, too, although I don’t know if they’ve found any inside.
Do be aware that there are privacy concerns with the game. The game currently gives Niantic, the company that owns it, access to all of their Google account data. The company has stated this is an error they are working to correct. Some of the people I know are using a secondary Google account that isn’t connected to their Google Docs or regularly-used email to try to minimize the risk. I’m not sure if this helps.
It is very important to be aware of your surroundings when playing the game and to be as careful as always when going out in the world. The news has reported accidents involving people crossing roads and falling down a cliff, as well as a couple of robberies. And, of course, don’t play Pokemon GO and drive!
The game does have benefits. One of the tasks it requires is walking multiple kilometers to hatch virtual eggs. It’s like having a FitBit or other fitness tracker that gives you in-game rewards for meeting goals. And it’s nice to see young people outside in parks and other places in the community, making the game a social occasion. You can’t sit on the couch if you want to get very far with this game.
Life works best when you have a balance of activities, so keep reading even though catching Pokemon is so much fun. When you’re stopping by to play Pokemon GO, come inside to pick up some real-world items, too: check out some books!