The setting sun did not deter aspiring Pokémon trainers from gathering around Scranton’s Courthouse Square Tuesday night. Shouts of “over there,” followed by pointing and fast-paced walking became a familiar sight as dozens used their cellphones as guides, all keeping an eye out for something rare.
Someone announced an Eevee was near, a creature with brown fur and a furry collar.
Those in attendance – largely millennials – swarmed Pokéstops, locations of importance on the game map, gathering useful items such as Pokéballs and potions, obsessing over the Japanese franchise’s latest game, Pokémon Go.
The smartphone game’s objective is to capture animated monsters placed in would-be trainer’s paths by the app, which uses the device’s GPS.
Pokémon, meaning pocket monster, drew a large following in the 1990s with the release of games, trading cards, movies, and television shows.
Nostalgia may attribute to the games resurgence.
“I started playing Pokémon when I was like four or five years old with my brother,” Paul Capoccia of Scranton said. “I played it on the original GameBoy, curled up on the recliner in my living room under the lamp for hours. It was one of the most fun things I did as a kid.”
Pokémon Go fulfills a fantasy Pokémon fans have had since the game first came out in the 90s, what if Pokémon were real and inhabited our world?
While the monsters popping-up on trainer’s phones may not be completely real, technology has evolved enough to simulate the Pokémon world. In turn, trainer’s have chosen their teams – Instinct, Mystic, or Valor – and have began to explore in search of Pokémon, Pokéspots, and gyms to claim in the name of their team, like St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Scranton.
Bringing life Downtown
Since the release of Pokémon Go, Scranton has become a popular place to be. With hundreds of trainers walking the streets in search of the strongest, rarest Pokémon, businesses have benefited.
“We had a bunch of people in the shop today,” Julie, a Northern Light Epresso Bar employee, said. “Anything that gets people walking around downtown is a positive.”
Popular restaurant, Coney Island Lunch, is a Pokéspot, and is advertising that information, taking to Facebook encouraging trainers to stop in and gather some Pokéballs, and food of course.
PNC Field in Moosic, home to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are using Facebook to attract trainers to an upcoming game by advertising they are a Pokéstop and gym. According to the Facebook page, trainers will be able to enter the game early so they can battle for the gym and capture whatever Pokémon are lurking about.
“I love how (the game) is actually getting people to meet in a whole new way,” Matt Osborne of Archbald said. “Allowing people to get out and explore places they never really go to.”
The atmosphere Downtown has changed according to trainers.
“My favorite part is just all the energy people have about (the game),” Paul said. “People are so passionate about (the game) and so nice and teaching about it too. It’s for everyone by everyone. It makes me so happy being part of a thing so much bigger than me.”
According to PhsychCentral, the game has helped some users with anxiety, depression, and all around mental health.
“We already know that exercise helps greatly with depression (along with virtually every other mental health problem),” states the website. “But being motivated to exercise when you’re depressed is a challenge. That’s why an engaging game like Pokémon Go can be helpful.”
The game encourages people to take a walk – Pokémon can only be found through movement – talk to people, and explore.
“(The game) improves my mental health,” Paul said. “When I’m having a rough day, now I can just say ‘hey, I’m taking a walk to play Pokemon with all my friends.’ I’m physically healthier walking more, and I’m mentally healthier seeing my friends all the time now playing and getting out of the house to clear my head more often.”
So, play on. Get out there, catch those Pokémon, meet new people (or trainers), and visit local restaurants who are just as excited about Pokémon as you are. Whatever the reason you play, have Pokéfun, be Pokésafe, and don’t Poké and drive.
Oh, and comment where all the good Pokémon are. I really want a Dragonite.