By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The streets of Oklahoma have been invaded twice this week. First by monsters, then by Millennials.
Many parents may have thought their pokemon days were behind them once their child grew up and moved out, but now you might very well have a Vulpix living in your bathroom.
Nintendo and Niantic Labs released the newest evolution of the Pokemon franchise last Wednesday in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand in the form of a smart phone app for Apple and Android users. Pokemon Go utilizes GPS imaging and the users' cameras to render an "augmented reality" that directly mirrors the real world.
What does that mean? It means that nerds actually have to leave the house and get some exercise now. For Pokemon trainers to "Catch 'Em All," they have to travel and seek out the desired "Pocket Monster" using a low-tech radar that only informs you if you're getting closer or further away, but doesn't actually point you in any specific direction.
To load up on Pokeballs and other necessary inventory, trainers must visit Pokestops at various local landmarks such as the Sand Springs Triangle Clock Tower, the Sand Springs Lake, or the Herbal Affair Mural. Pokemon can be caught anywhere, including the middle of the street, causing some potentially dangerous habits among die-hard collectors.
In addition to the Pokestops, there are also Pokemon Gyms at Earth and Soul, the statue of Charles Page on the Triangle, Crossfit 1055, Saint Matthews Episcopal Church, and more. Gyms can be taken over by players on any of the three teams: Valor, Mystic, and Instinct. Players can combat enemy trainers at hostile gyms, and can train their own pokemon and level up friendly gyms that belong to their team.
What's great about Pokemon Go is that it's not just a kids' game. While the app is sure to reach an entire new generation of children, its biggest target audience is the nostalgic young adults who grew up on the original Gameboy games in the 1990's and 2000's. The augmented reality aspect of the game is not only encouraging young people to be more active, but the uniqueness of it has enticed numerous adults well into their thirties and forties to take up the activity as well.
The "Tulsa Pokemon GO: Team Valor" facebook group already has 231 members, "Pokemon GO-Team Instinct Tulsa" has 368 members, and "Tulsa Team Mystic" facebook page has 261 "likes." "Sand Springs Team Valor" appears to be the only team with a Facebook group in Sand Springs and it is currently sitting at 35 members.
This is far from a small niche market. The app quickly surged to the number one position on the Apple marketplace Top Charts, ahead of Snapchat, Messenger, Google Maps, and Spotify. The company hasn't released official numbers yet, but App analytics company SensorTower estimates more than 7.5 million downloads in the U.S. alone. The popularity of the app has caused numerous server issues that have frustrated many users, but the laps in coverage seem to be getting less frequent and game play is rapidly becoming less problematic. Unfortunately for most of the world, Niantec has already indefinitely delayed the rollout to the rest of the world until the server issues are resolved.
Don't expect users to get bored and quit playing any time soon. The app's debut only features the 150 original first generation pokemon, and future releases are expected to make an additional 570 pokemon available as well as allow players to trade their catches.
Sandite Pride News activated a "Lure Module" at the City Garden Park on Broadway Sunday, which draws rare pokemon to the area for a period of thirty minutes. Within ten minutes, players who saw the lure on their map were flocking to join us in the garden. Five vehicles with close to two-dozen trainers answered our call over the brief window, and there was another lure module going off at the Triangle which attracted dozens more at the same time.
Needless to say, you can expect to see a lot more people walking around town with their face in their phone in the foreseeable future, so be vigilant not to hit any pedestrians who aren't paying attention to their surroundings.
Sandite Pride is currently divided with two of our staff members choosing Team Valor while a third is on Team Mystic. Whether the rest of the staff joins the fun remains to be seen, but Executive Director Morgan Miller and I invite you to join us on the Sand Springs Team Valor facebook group and get active! The game isn't just for us nerds, but anyone who wants to be active and see more of the city will be sure to enjoy the app.