Montreal·Point of View

Pokémon Go in Montreal: Hacking, trespassing, art, meetups

Pokémon Go is still not available in Canada, which means very few people have figured out how to get it on their phones. For those who have it's an encyclopedia of Montreal's hidden art gems and an invitation to take the long way home.

Augmented reality app promotes learning about local landmarks

After about 20 minutes of playing Pokémon Go I saw a pug and got ready to catch it in a Poké Ball.

Realizing I had lost any sense of the real world, I walked over to a quiet street to keep playing so I wouldn't be a hazard to myself. Or others. 

When Pokémon Go officially comes to Canada cellphone lanes for pedestrians may not be far off. (Cliff Owen/The Associated Press)

This game is clearly not for young children the way its 1996 Gameboy release was. Instead of Nintendo targeting kids with Pokémon Go, the franchise seems to have boomeranged back to the generation that loved it first.

While I was roaming the McGill campus with my iPhone in hand, I saw a group of children walking right into a Pokestop without one of them lifting a phone to collect its items. Amateurs. 

I, meanwhile, got three Pokeballs and a potion from the McCord Museum.

None of these children seemed to notice they were walking into a Pokestop, further proving it's a game for adults. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

I expected to see other people playing the game when I was out, but having to hack iTunes for half an hour just to download it from the U.S. store meant I was alone. 

Despite so few people playing it in Montreal compared to the U.S., public bodies are nevertheless releasing public-service announcements to try to keep the public safe.

Montreal's commuter rail agency, the AMT, posted a Facebook message on Monday: "Thank you for respecting security rules when you're looking for Pokémon near our installations."

But the lack of fellow players in Montreal stopped being an issue when it turned out the game knows more about the city's art and culture than I do. And I consider myself artsy and cultured.   

I became so invested in spotting sculptures I never knew existed, and discovering the origins of Montreal's murals, that I started getting annoyed when new Pokémon would pop up and demand I try to catch them.

According to Pokémon Go this statue is called Gendrid II and was made by Barry Flanagan in 1994. Clicking on it yielded 3 Pokeballs and a potion. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

Hunting stopped being the reason I was playing after I noticed how many hidden cultural gems the app was schooling me on. Who needs another Zubat or Pidgey anyway?

But when I returned my attention to catching the Pokémon, I found myself in some awkward situations. 

In residential areas with fewer cultural offerings I was loitering in front of houses, holding up my phone to try to catch a Pokémon that appeared on their lawn. I was worried I looked like a weirdo taking pictures of random houses. 

Some people in the U.S. are already complaining that the app has led to gamers lurking around their homes at all hours.

And given that the game expects players to wander through unknown areas it has already gotten some people into tricky situations. The internet wasted no time turning it into a meme.

On the flip side, businesses can cash in on the lure of the game. According to Time, some businesses in the U.S. are paying a $10 daily fee to bring people to them by planting rare Pokémon inside.

Some dubious landmarks in the Montreal version of the game include Boustan, because it has a painting inside, and McKibbons Pub, because it dates from 1912, apparently. 

McKibbons Pub is one of the more random Pokestops. In the U.S., where the game has officially launched, some businesses are already paying for this kind of promotion. (Elysha Enos/CBC)


Elysha Enos


Elysha Enos is a journalist with CBC Montreal.