New Brunswick

New Pokemon game dots the Fredericton landscape with virtual creatures

Fredericton residents want to be the very best at a new program called Pokemon Go, by searching far and wide to catch them all.

Hot, new gaming phenomenon, that even has a Twitter fan page, hits Fredericton streets

These da Vinci College students, on a break from class, are playing Pokemon Go - trying to capture a Beedrill. (Stephanie Sirois/CBC)

The new mobile game Pokemon Go isn't officially available in Canada yet, but it's easy to spot people in Fredericton with their smartphones searching for the Nintendo video game creatures.

It's the hot, new gaming phenomenon that taps into a smartphone's GPS to create an on-screen augmented reality, where the user can track Pikachu and other Pokemon characters around the city.

Nathan Blackmore has captured more than 10 Pokemon since he started playing the game last week. (Stephanie Sirois/CBC)
Real-world sites, such as libraries and churches, morph into Pokemon gyms on the smartphones, allowing users to train their monsters, a new way to play with the creatures that captivated them as kids. 

Some people, frustrated the game is not yet available in Canada, are so determined to play they've risked malware threats by going online and circumventing the geoblocking to use the app.

Pokemon Go isn't just driving people to their phones, it's also sending them outside. Some are at it for hours at a time, including Fredericton's Nathan Blackmore.

There's a very specific look to someone who is playing Pokemon Go.- Tyler Lifford

​"I'm more or less kind of a shut-in, so this has been getting me out of the apartment and actually outside," he said.

Blackmore said he avoided the game on its U.S. release day, July 6, because he thought online traffic would be high.

However, since then, he says the game has taken over his daily routine.

He starts the morning in his apartment, where he opens the app on his phone and becomes engrossed in trying to catch Pokemon.

Later, he stops by some downtown Fredericton landmarks that are known by local Go players as Pokemon gyms, such as the local library.

Pokemon Go has gamers around the world leaving their consoles behind to hit the streets. (Toru Yamanka/AFP/Getty Images)
Finding and capturing Psyduck or Jigglypuff can make a guy thirsty, so then there's a stop for a morning coffee and more play. All of which takes a toll on his phone's battery.

Blackmore said he has been online looking for extended battery packs to combat the drain on his phone, among other issues. 

"The other big problem with it right now is that we're not supposed to have it here, so the servers are a little bit shaky. So every now and then there's crashes and stuff like that," said Blackmore.

Blackmore is not the only Pokemon hunter downtown. Others can be seen wandering around, clutching their phones while battles rage on-screen, at any hour of the day.

"Last night I noticed that there was a space down the road here lit up, like there was a bunch of events going on," he said.

"I went down there and there was a bunch of people just crowded around catching Pokemon and stuff at 2:30 a.m."

They walk the walk

Tyler Lifford works as a guide at the Soldiers' Barracks in downtown Fredericton. He and his co-workers say they can instantly tell who is playing the game.

Tyler Lifford says he's waiting for the legal version of Pokemon Go to come out. (Stephanie Sirois/CBC)
"There's a very specific look to someone who is playing Pokemon Go and not someone who is checking GPS or answering a text," said Lifford.

"It's walk walk walk, stop, look at your phone, look at it a few times because you're in range of a Pokemon."

He and his co-workers say they seem to work in a hotspot, because people walk near their area on their phones, and even inside the barracks to catch Pokemon.

"I should probably ask someone so we could put up signs that say something like, 'Hey, tourists. We have Pokemon,'" he said.