Pokémon Go players scavenge across Toronto ahead of game's official release in Canada

Pokémon Go, a smartphone-based app game created by Nintendo based on the popular Japanese cartoon show, hasn't launched in Canada yet, but gamers are already taking to the streets, parks and even power plants of Toronto in their quest to find Pikachu.

'Playing the game, I’ve scoured my neighbourhood pretty extensively,' says JP Casino

JP Casino and his son Joshua once walked around the OCAD campus for an hour while looking for a special Pokémon while playing Pokémon Go. (CBC)

In the search for Pikachu, dedicated Pokémon Go players in the GTA might find themselves at a nearby nuclear power plant.

Such is the dedication of trainers in the city who want to catch 'em all.

Pokémon Go, a smartphone-based app game created by Nintendo based on the popular Japanese cartoon show, was released in the U.S. last week, and although it has yet to officially launch in Canada, gamers are already taking to the streets, parks and even power plants of Toronto in their quest to find Pikachu.

"Pokémon Go is a location-based game where they layer a digital experience over the real world," says JP Casino, founder of KidGadget, a parents-focused website about gaming tech and news.

These gamers had their focus firmly on the Pokémon Go quest in Toronto's David Pecaut Square on Monday. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

Players walk around outside and discover places like Pokéstops or gyms, where they have the opportunity to catch Pokémon. 

"Playing the game, I've scoured my neighbourhood pretty extensively," says Casino. "I've gone down to Ashbridges Bay, Cherry Beach, Greenwood Park, on Danforth from Broadview to Victoria Park.

Nostalgia boosts popularity

The father of two attributes the popularity of Pokémon Go to nostalgia on the part of adults who grew up with the franchise, and to the often challenging and rewarding nature of the game. 

Pokémon characters like this one can be found in Pokémon Go in a variety of interesting places. (SKennyG/Reddit)

"A lot of us have grown up with Pokémon or at least did when we were kids and we're now revisiting parts of our childhood, he says.

"There's still a challenge. It's really not just going around and capturing a Pikachu," he adds, noting the game's levelling-up system and the ability for Pokémon to evolve.

In fact, Casino says he is going to great lengths to level up his Pikachu.

"Part of the premise of the game is that you can catch certain types of Pokémon in certain geographies as it aligns to their element," he explains. "If you want to catch more water Pokémon ... you would need to go down by the lake."

"I'm trying to level up my [electric-type] Pikachu," he adds, so he is currently "trying find some time this week where I can take an afternoon to head out to Pickering to go to the nuclear power plant." 

Game has yet to launch in Canada

Since Pokémon Go launched in the U.S. and other countries, the popularity of the game has been overwhelming. Although it has yet to be officially launched in Canada, Casino says there are ways people across the country to play the game and partake in the phenomenon. 

"There are several ways you can get the game in Canada," he says.

Casino says Android users have the option to download an app that hasn't been published to, or vetted by, the Google apps store.

Joshua can play Pokémon Go because his father downloaded the game with a U.S. iTunes account. (CBC)

"A lot of publishers do that today. They host an application on their website, you can download it onto your phone," he says. "You install it and away you go."

Apple and IOS users who want to install the app need to jailbreak their devices, or "essentially install a broken version of the operating system," but Casino warns doing so can worsen the performance of the device.

He says he was able to download the game because he has a U.S. iTunes account.

Facebook group for GTA Pokémon Go players

Casino even started a Facebook group called PokemonTO, giving players in Toronto and the GTA-area a place to find the latest news pertaining to the game, tips on how to get better and even locations to where they could find an elusive Gyarados.

"[Last night] I set up a couple of lures so that Pokémon would be attracted to those locations and about a dozen people came out of the woodworks over a two-hour period," he recounts.

Casino says he ended up having conversations with many of them about the game and shared experiences, which inspired him to start the group.

A man in New York incurred injures when he crashed his skateboard while playing Pokémon Go. (Mike Schultz/Associated Press)

"The idea for PokemonTO came out of talking with other gamers, realizing there was a need for a community where we could talk about the game," he explains.

So far, many of the posts are about news surrounding the game, and a lot of questions that players have.

"There wasn't really any information about the game. Even when you start it for the first time … it just throws you right in," he adds.

'Go out and explore the city'

Casino often plays Pokémon Go with his six-year-old son Joshua.

He tells a story of how he and Joshua spent an hour walking around OCAD University after hearing rumours that there was a special Pokémon on the campus.

Casino advises first-time players who want to be the very best to start their journeys to find Pokémon around town with a friend. (CBC)

"[We] didn't find anything but it was great," he says. "I got to show him OCAD."

Casino also says the game is actually very social and encourages people to be out and about.

"There's an article that went around saying that people with social anxiety, and depression and agoraphobia are finding it easier to go outside because they now have a reason to go out and interact with places and with other people," he explains.

Although it has yet to be officially launched in Canada, Casino says there are ways people across the country to play Pokémon Go and partake in the phenomenon. (CBC)

"I fall into that group that has perpetually meant to go to the gym or meant to go out biking for months which just stretches out into years," he says, adding he's struggled with depression for the majority of his life.

"To go out biking last night for a couple of hours [playing Pokémon Go], I came back I was exhausted but I felt fantastic. To know that I also levelled up my character significantly as a result just added to the win."

In the event the game finally launches in Canada, Casino advises first-time players who want to be the very best to start their journeys to find Pokémon around town with a friend.

"Go out and explore the city," says Casino.

About the Author

Justin Li

Senior News Writer

Justin Li is a senior news writer. Prior to joining CBC News, he worked for the Toronto Star and wrote for various magazines in Toronto, where he's always lived.