The Weekend Pokmon Go Took Over America
Kate Lovero couldn’t figure out why her friends were ducking out early from her party this weekend. She was grilling; the steaks weren’t done. “Where are they going?” she asked. The answer: They were headed out into the streets of Boston to catch wild Pokmon a few blocks away.
At San Francisco’s AT&T Park, groups of fans gathered around statues of famous baseball players staring at their phones, battery packs heating up. They werent taking pictures of Willie Mays; they were catching Pokmon. Gossip said that Charmanders were lurking at the Cupids Span sculpture along Embarcadero, they said.
Customers were pouring into Supreme Beans Coffee Shop in Daytona Beach—happy for the free Wi-Fi and the hot and frozen espresso-based drinks, but much more interested in the gaggle of Rattata—enough to start a small army. People were coming into the shop saying we were a ‘gym,’ says Supreme Beans’ co-owner Brandy Glenos. I had no idea what it meant.
What it meant was Pokmon Go, a game that turns people’s phones into cameras on an parallel universe, one in which mythical cartoon beasties with Harry Potterish names frolick amid familiar landmarks and places. Download the game, hold the phone up, and you see them—and can “capture” them and train them to fight in “gyms,” also locked to real-world locations. What it meant was that, this past weekend, crowds of people went outside to play a game, alone, together, in the real world and in an augmented reality.
It’s not the most popular smartphone game ever, but it’s certainly the most performative. People are chasing Pokmon through Central Park in New York, battling them outside a coffee shop in Birmingham, Alabama, and a taqueria in rural Idaho. Hell—they’ve even shown up in Mosul, Iraq. This weekend Pokmon Go became a cultural phenomenon seemingly overnight, clogging social media feeds, obsessing kids and adults, bringing people together, even inspiring clever thieves. This is something new.
How It Works
It started at Google, as these things tend to. A few years ago, a startup inside the company called Niantic Labs developed technology that could link game-play to GPS locations, effectively turning the entire world into a game board.