NEWBERRY — Pokemon GO, a location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic Inc., has taken the world by storm, its app exceeding 100 million downloads at the Google Play Store.
Pokemon GO allows iPhone and Android device users to travel between the real world and virtual world of Pokemon, according to pokemon.com.
The game uses real locations to discover Pokemon, and allows players to find and catch more than a hundred species of Pokemon as they explore their surroundings.
When you encounter a Pokemon, you can use the camera feature on your phone, putting the wild Pokemon into the live scene your camera is facing.
As you and your phone move around, it will vibrate to let you know you are near a Pokemon. Once you encounter one of these creatures, you take aim on your smartphone’s touch screen and throw a Poke Ball to catch it.
Players can also find PokeStops, locations marked in-game by blue squares that allows a players to gather in-game items such as Eggs, Poke Balls, Potions and more that can only be acquired via leveling or real-money purchases.
In Newberry, one can find PokeStops at Newberry College, the Post Office, numerous churches and the Coca-Cola mural, just to name a few.
Newberry is also getting on the Pokemon GO train, thanks to the Newberry Opera House, which recently had an event capitalizing on the app.
The Opera House is the site of a Gym, a location that allows players to battle each other, and a number of PokeStops. So using a lure, a device in the game that attracts Pokemon to PokeStops, they not only attracted Pokemon, but players as well.
“We saw that Pokemon GO was going viral and we wanted to bring people into the lobby and expose them to the Opera House, so Rebecca MacCormack, my marketing associate, helped me plan this event,” said Micah Decker, office manager at the Newberry Opera House. “So we decided to make a Facebook event and tie it in with our Summer Movie Series, which is a new thing we are trying out with different genres of movies.”
The first 20 people who arrived to the Opera House lobby in search of Pokemon received a free movie ticket and a free T-shirt.
During the event, a family of Pokemon GO players stopped by to take advantage of the lure. Irmo residents Eric and Trina Nielsen, along with their daughter Breann, heard about the event via Facebook, and decided to stop by Newberry.
Eric Nielsen said the reason he downloaded the app was because of his daughter.
“I had no idea about all this stuff. Honestly, in my opinion, this is one of the few things that we have found, as far as a game platform, where we can go out and have fun together, just walking around town,” he said.
Nielsen added that they have spent more time as a family since they downloaded the game, because not only does their daughter play, but so does his 21-year-old son.
“We went to the State House, the Riverwalk in Columbia, there are several PokeStops near our house. We get home from work, and before we eat dinner we go outside and walk around,” he said.
Breann Nielsen, 11, said she has been playing the game since it debuted and the reason was because of her brother.
“My brother watched Pokemon all the time, and we still have the CDs,” she said.
Eric Nielsen added that he remembered taking his son and his friend to a card shop in Lexington where they would play the card game with a group.
While the app has become increasingly popular around the world, it is not without risks.
Various news outlets across the nation have reported how robbers have targeted players. Most recently a college student was shot and killed at an Aquatic Park in San Francisco while playing the game.
Newberry Police Chief Roy McClurkin reminded those who are playing the game to be aware of and familiar with their surroundings while playing.
“You want to be familiar with your surroundings and where you are going. Keep vigilant as to what you are seeing and if at all possible, take someone with you at all times, preferably two or three people,” he said. “One thing people need to realize, you do not want to trespass on any private property or anyplace you are not supposed to be. When you go onto someone’s property, they consider you to be a suspicious person and they do not know what you are doing there, and that could have devastating consequences.”
McClurkin suggests sticking to public areas like parks, but reminds players to pay attention to the hours the park is open.
“If kids are playing, parents should accompany their kids while doing this. Do not send them out by themselves, do not send them out with friends or anything like that. Parents should go out with their kids,” he said.
Another danger? Players who are playing while driving.
McClurkin said he saw on the news that a player hit the back of a police car while playing and driving.
“It is not worth your life or another person’s life to play that game while driving,” he said. “(Distracted driving) is one of the leading causes of accidents and that is 100 percent distracted driving. Your mind is totally not on your surroundings.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.