If you are wondering why more and more people are spending time outdoors on their smartphones this summer, Pokemon Go is likely the answer.
The video game has taken Terrace, like much of the world, by storm. And residents, businesses and people of all ages are making sure to get in on the fun.
“People are actually getting out and using the community,” said councillor Stacey Tyers, who is one of many that has taken charge to help organize the community around the game.
Pokemon Go is a mobile video game based on the Pokemon series, which was all the rage in the ‘90s and at one time featured a popular card game, TV show, and even an original video game on the Nintendo Game Boy.
The game, which has already been downloaded millions of times worldwide, launched July 5 and came to Canada shortly after. It presents users with a kind of augmented reality, where they can walk around in the real world and attempt to “catch” Pokemon, which are likened to a set of a fictional creatures that roam the wild and have special abilities.
The game is popular to play among friends (or competitors) who take joy in catching Pokemon together or competing for superiority in one of the game’s “gyms,” which are specialized locations in the game’s world where users can train or battle other users.
One of those specialized locations happens to be in front of Terrace city hall. It is now commonplace to see youth and adults alike outside city hall, as well as in George Little Park or at other businesses around town where they are taking part in the gaming phenomenon.
“We just haven’t seen that many people come to city hall,” Tyers said about all of the Pokemon Go users suddenly flooding the outside of the building
“And the thing is, I think that if you’re spending time at city hall you’ll be engaging more and learning what’s going on.”
The Facebook group “PokemonGo Terrace BC,” started by Tyers and three others, already boasts over 480 members and counting.
The group allows Terrace residents who are playing the game to swap stories about Pokemon they have caught, organize meet-ups and share news about the game.
Tyers said she and some other active members are currently trying to organize a Pokemon Go scavenger hunt, an event that would allow members of the Facebook group to collectively meet-up and go on an expedition to catch Pokemon together.
Elsewhere in town, businesses are seeing the recent explosion in popularity of the mobile game as a way for them to engage with the community.
Amber Zanon, who is the property manager of the Skeena Mall, last week shared on Facebook a competition the mall was offering.
According to the post, all users had to do was screenshot any Pokemon they caught in the mall and then post a picture of it on the Skeena Mall Facebook page.
The winner, chosen at random, received a $25 mall gift certificate on Monday.
“It’s people of all ages, it’s not just young boys, it’s everybody,” Zanon said about those playing the game. “I wanted to explore how that could interact with us here at the mall and I just thought it could be fun.”
Zanon also said she would be interested in doing the promotion again, assuming the initial one went well.
“I find it very exciting to be part of something that’s very timely and that everyone is experiencing together and as a community we can kind of have something that’s very positive, that we can explore and enjoy and share,” Zanon said.
Just to name a few examples of Pokemon Go promotions that have already occurred, Wings Terrace held a “battle of the teams” July 16, where Pokemon Go users from around Terrace were encouraged to come down to the mall and compete to see which team could capture one of the in-game gyms.
Wings also offered door prizes and prizes for the most creative Pokemon Go photo taken at the restaurant and bar during the event.
Wings is planning to continue hosting this event every Saturday for the time being.
The Terrace RCMP encourages users to go out and have fun playing the game, but also reminds people to stay safe and obey the law while doing it.
Cst. Angela Rabut said the RCMP here had seen some cases of people walking or driving while playing the game, but it has mostly been OK. “It is great seeing people outside, moving, and interacting,” Rabut said.