Winnipeggers try to 'catch 'em all' as Pokemon Go app takes over city
Augmented reality game feeds 'everyone's dream as a kid' to be a trainer
The new Pokemon Go app has unofficially landed in Winnipeg, and for Tessa Brenan, a childhood Pokemon fan, it's bringing her childhood dreams to life.
Brenan, 17, says it's those who grew up with the Pokemon game that are most excited about this new craze.
"This coming out is just kind of everyone's dream as a kid when they played, to be a Pokemon trainer," Brenan says.
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Pokemon Go, a new smartphone game based on cute Nintendo characters like Squirtle and Pikachu, is an "augmented reality" game which layers gameplay onto the physical world.
As "Pokemon trainers," players are drawn to hot spots like Assiniboine Park, The Forks, and the University of Manitoba, which is one of Brenan's favourite places to venture.
While the app has not been officially released in Canada yet, players in Winnipeg and across the country have found creative ways to obtain the game through various back channels.
Brenan got access through a friend's American Apple account.
"People are just doing anything they can to get this app."
The game is bringing players together from all over the city, she said, describing it as a "cultural phenomenon."
"It's almost beautiful… that all these people are just coming back to enjoy something they loved as a child, and they still love it now."
Brenan said the largest group she's witnessed coming together because of the app was at the U of M where about 30 people flocked together in pursuit of Pokemons.
The app places players on a map as avatars that moves on the screen as they do, in real time. It shows users which Pokemons are nearby. In addition to catching Pokemon, users can catch eggs that eventually hatch into Pokemons, or partake in "gym" battles, all reminiscent of the original Pokemon game.
Brenan has caught dozens of Pokemons so far, but she's still hoping to catch the legendary Pikachu.
Brenna's mom, Carla Brenan, is thrilled that both her daughter and her younger son are using the app: "It gets them out of the house! Instead of playing video games in the basement, they're outside."
For adults, it's a bit of nostalgia
But adults are signing up, too.
Josh Derbecker, who is 27, said his Pokemon Go addiction started over the weekend when he downloaded the app to play with his three-year-old son.
The boy became bored with it by the next day, but Derbecker was completely hooked.
"In the last three days, I've walked 30 kilometres, which is pretty dramatic from sitting on the couch. That's probably the best part for me."
"You feel a little strange walking around the neighbourhood pointing your phone at people's houses. You don't want to seem creepy...but at the same time, you've got to catch the Pokemons," he laughs.
For him, it's nostalgic. Just a few weeks ago, rummaging through some old boxes, he found his old gameboy with the Pokemon game still in it, and it kept him entertained for hours.
The new app allows players to fulfil their "childhood fantasies of catching Pokemon in real life," he said.
"There is something addictive about the collection and competing with other people for that collection."
And it gives people a bit of a workout, on two fronts. "It does increase social activity. It increases physical activity."