Pokemon Go takes nation, campus by storm

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A turf war has begun on campus this summer, splitting the student body three ways all because of one new smartphone app: Pokémon Go.

TEAMS & GYMS

This war has emerged as a result of the three Pokémon teams: Team Mystic, Team Valor and Team Instinct. The purpose of the teams is to take control of “Pokemon Gyms.” A gym is a place where trainers go to train their Pokemon. SVSU’s campus is home to several of these gyms, located in places including outside of the museum and the cage-like structure across the street from O’Neill Arena. Controlling a gym gives those who reside in the gym bonus coins for purchasing items, stardust for powering up Pokemon and experience for gaining levels, but also bragging rights.

Clayton Piechowiak is a member of Team Valor and a fifth-year mechanical engineering student. Although he has not played Pokemon since the original games, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, he downloaded the app because of the nostalgia associated with it.

“I’ve played for the last three days, a total of fours hours, and I really enjoy it,” he said. “It really makes me reminisce when I played Red and Blue. I actually really like to see all of the people outside. It gives me a legitimate reason to be outside.”

POPULARITY

Within a week, the Pokemon Go app was downloaded over 15 million times and is continuing that upward trend with worldwide releases. The app has since topped Tinder in terms of downloads and is threatening to take over the Twitter app’s download count.

Fourth-year education major and Team Mystic member Sonia Roe was walking around with a friend catching Pokemon and collecting virtual items from noteworthy areas around campus called “PokéStops.” This has been a familiar sight on campus ever since the release of the app.

“A lot of us grew up with Pokemon,” she said. “Our childhood dream was that we actually wanted to go catch Pokemon, and now we kind of can.”

POKESTOPS & LURES

The campus has a plethora of these PokéStops in locations including buildings, the giant Cardinal head on the Ryder Center, and the wetlands preserve by Pine Grove. Each PokeStop resets after approximately 3-5 minutes, so many people have come to campus to “farm” these PokeStops for items.

PokeStops are also places that can have lures thrown down, which is a great way to attract Pokemon, but also people. Anytime a lure is thrown down, many players will flock to that area to benefit from the incoming Pokemon.

DATA COLLECTION

“I was in the SVSU parking lot at 10 p.m. yesterday surrounded by students with their phones,” Dr. Sherrin Frances, associate professor of English, said. “It felt like a new kind of community was emerging, and I wonder how long it will last.”

Dr. Frances is also a little wary about the app and how much data it collects from its users.

“We’re already seeing newspaper headlines warning about giving this app so much access to our phones and activity,” Frances said. “That’s not a reason not to do it, but it is something we have to consider. Consumers should be more aware of how their data is helping companies profit.”

HEALTH BENEFITS

While there has been some controversy concerning the collection of data due to the app, there is no doubt that Pokemon Go has revolutionized phone gaming in many ways. For many, the mental and physical health benefits have completely changed how they view the game itself.

According to Newsweek, One in five adults the U.S. experience mental illness each year. For many suffering from these mental illnesses, it can be nearly impossible to get outside regularly and get the exercise they need. Pokemon Go has given people the motivation to get outdoors and walk regularly, as well as biking and jogging.

While the creators say that the game was not intended for weight loss, it is a positive side effect that some users are seeing. Animal shelters across the U.S. have been letting volunteers walk the dogs while playing as well to get the exercise needed for the pets.

“I think it’s awesome that it’s getting so many people out and about this summer rather than sitting on the couch at home,” Nicole Jewell, a fifth year exercise science major and Team Instinct member, said. “The game has brought people together and give them something in common to talk about. It gives some people a sense of belonging too.”

A POKEMON COMMUNITY

The game has also helped develop a new sense of community in small towns. Due to the three different factions in the game, there is a feeling of being in a team and a sense of togetherness that stems from that. Having that feeling of belonging is incredibly beneficial and can help boost self-esteem. There is also less fear of rejection by talking to new people about the game because it is so easy to tell if people are playing or not. Groups, such as the Orientation Leaders, have been gathering on campus to Pokemon hunt with friends. There are also SVSU-specific Twitter and Facebook pages that have been created, and TechCrunch has reported that this game has doubled the retention rate of similar phone games.

SVSU President Don Bachand has also noticed the difference that Pokemon Go has made on campus this summer.

“I have looked out my office window and seen so many people out on campus,” Bachand said. “It has been bringing so many people to campus, both students and non-students. I love seeing everyone outside, walking around and interacting with each other.”

In fact, President Bachand has expressed that he is open to the idea of joining the Pokemon Go community, even if it is just to be a talking point with students. Currently, however, he is content with watching the impact of the app unfold on campus.

FUTURE?

For now, it is hard to tell how long Pokemon Go’s influence will last or even how long people will actually be playing. But the company that created the app, Niantic, already has plans for the future.

There are plans for trading to become a component to the game, which would change the way people interact between each other with the app.

There are also plans on releasing other generations of Pokemon, with the next release to be the Pokemon from the Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver games. 

Pokemon gyms will also eventually be getting enhancements.

There is much more to come from this app, but for now, players should expect to keep at it with the long-standing Pokemon goal:

“Catch ‘em all!”

Reporter Rachel Farley also contributed to the writing of this story. 

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