Pokemon GO!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Stone of the Week to bring you this update on what the hell I’ve really been doing all weekend!  Pokemon Go released just days ago and already massive communities are growing around the game.  If you’re unfamiliar, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game for your phone (my phone can’t handle the AR portion of the game, but all that means is I can’t take the neat photos of my encounters).  The game is free and offers gameplay incentives for real world activities.  Cultural locations around town (churches, landmarks, parks, libraries, popular hangouts) are designated PokeStops where players can visit to stock up on Pokeballs and other items.  As you move around in the real world, you can track the original 151 Pokemon via GPS, catch them, evolve them, and battle them at gyms all over your town.  You also find eggs that you can hatch by walking 2-5km depending on the egg (downside, your phone must be active on the game screen for your movement to count toward the egg).

This weekend, I’ve hatched 4 eggs and met a whole new community of Pokemon players.  I’ve caught some pretty rare Pokemon in strange places, visited places I’d never seen on foot, gotten acquainted with my town’s history, and evolved a couple Eevees too.  I held a gym for a few hours until my scrappy Raticate returned to me for a potion.

The game is made and maintained by Niantic, Inc.  The company previously released a GPS game called Ingress, and all PokeStops and Gyms were copied directly over from that game’s Portals.  If you download and create an account on Ingress, you can view the official map on the website to find all the stops in your town.

The best advice I can give is to take turns as designated driver, carpool with as many players as you can and hit up areas of town with densely packed PokeStops.  If you find one where the speed limit is under 30 or there are plenty of actual traffic stops, all your passengers should be able to hit every PokeStop as you cruise through without disrupting traffic.

If you do have to get out and hunt down a rare Pokemon, be sure you’re legally parked, have plenty of water and sunscreen, make sure that it’s a public location (you can find Pokemon down dirt roads, but Bubba and his shotgun don’t want you swipin’ magikarp from this cornfield), and always stay aware of your surroundings.  One person can have their screen on to track down the pokemon while the others in the group watch for traffic, holes, trip hazards, snakes or poisonous plants.  And always be aware of people around you.  Some people are there for the pokemon, some people are there because pokemon players are often so absorbed in their phone activity that they are easy targets for mugging.  Hunt with a friend.

Good luck and have fun!

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