‘Pokemon Go’ captivates Lititz

By on July 13, 2016
College students Derek Fry (left) and Caleb Stork decided to spend their day off hunting Pokemons Tuesday at Lititz Springs Park.

College students Derek Fry (left) and Caleb Stork decided to spend their day off hunting Pokemons Tuesday at Lititz Springs Park.

Ok, most everyone has heard by now of the “Pokémon Go” smartphone game where users hunt Bulbasaurs, Snorlaxs, and other hard to pronounce virtual creatures.

The game, inspired by scavenger hunting geo cachers, is this summer’s viral phenomenon that’s swept over Lititz Springs Park.

As phenomenon’s go it’s drawn mixed reviews, labeled everything from a government conspiracy and CIA data collecting device to a harmless virtual reality game that’s inspired children to get out of the house and exercise.

Players such as Gage St. Pierre tried to explain the game Tuesday, which may sound like a foreign language to those unfamiliar with Pokémon.

“You get the better Pokémons by hatching eggs which you get by walking a certain distance,” advised Gage, who sat on benches at Lititz Springs Park with his brother Luke and their schoolmate Declan McCarthy.

Three friends from Lititz (left to right) Jordan Bissonnette, Bailey Carr, and Will Bufis played the Pokemon Go game on Monday and Tuesday.

Three friends from Lititz (left to right) Jordan Bissonnette, Bailey Carr, and Will Bufis played the Pokemon Go game on Monday and Tuesday.

The game has become incredibly popular as well with college students such as Warwick High School grads Caleb Stork and Derek Fry.

“I caught a Psyduck near that bench over there and a lot of Rattatas,” Stork announced.

“They’re all over the place,” said Fry, referring to the virtual reality creatures that appear randomly on a smartphone when positioned in a precise location.

Fry noted the game has helped inspire people with mental health issues and depression “to get up and out of bed in the morning.”

“That’s a side-effect that (developers) didn’t see coming,” he said.

But the game appears to have captivated non-millenials, such as Amy Johnson, 29, a stay-at-home mother who’s working on an associate’s degree in psychology.

“So far I have caught 11 Pokémon,” Johnson said referring to “Poke Stops” locations revealed on a smartphone map generated by the Pokémon Go app.

It works like this: the game uses your phone’s GPS to post real-world locations to spot Pokémon and collect items.

Pokemon Go players (from left) Luke St. Pierre, Declan McCarthy, and Gage St. Pierre settle near a “hot spot” at Lititz Springs Park.

Pokemon Go players (from left) Luke St. Pierre, Declan McCarthy, and Gage St. Pierre settle near a “hot spot” at Lititz Springs Park.

When found, the game unlocks your smartphone’s camera, opening a view of Pokémon in the real world. Once you spot them, you flick a “Poké Ball” toward the creature to capture it.

“I have found Pokémon mostly in parking lots such as the ones in Wal-Mart in Ephrata and Little Caesar’s on Lititz Pike,” Johnson said.” A few have jumped out while driving to and from Lancaster City from Ephrata.”

She noted that “I was the passenger while playing the app.”

But not everyone has been so careful as multiple reports have surfaced of distracted players injured while walking.

Waves of players cropping up in public have spawned public confusion and suspicion.

Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye admitted his department knew nothing of the Pokémon phenomenon until this past weekend when players had to be coaxed to leave Lititz Springs Park at closing.

“We actually had an incident at 2 a.m. (Tuesday) where three guys were walking on somebody’s private property doing this Pokémon game and an officer just came upon them,” Nye said.

He said it’s important to alert players of the danger of venturing on private property any time.

“The repercussions could be trespassing or even more than that if the homeowner sees someone in his backyard in the middle of the night,” he said. “Who knows what will happen?”

Nearby, Ephrata Police have responded to calls of Pokémon Go crowds gathering since the app has appeared.

“We had calls on two separate gatherings/locations,” Ephrata Chief William Harvey said. “None required police intervention, and the callers were briefed on what was going on.”

There are no known/reported issues or criminality at this time, he said. But there’s been at least one incident (not in this area) of players robbed after being lured to a bogus “Poke Stop.”

Harvey said both instances in Ephrata were citizens calling in who were curious about a small group of teenagers gathered at a location.

“It appeared suspicious to the callers, (but) there was no criminality or crimes committed,” he said.

Harvey said many of his officers are parents of teens, and along with their social media presence, they were familiar with the app from the start.

He cautions the public that this is only a game.

“Just as long as there are no crimes, ordinance violations, and they apply safety at all times,” he said. “Remember, this is only a game.” The biggest point that needs to be made is that participants need to be mindful and respect others’ property (residential and businesses), and not trespass or damage other’s property.”

“I expect our citizens, when they observe suspicious activity, to call it in,” he said. “One might not be able to distinguish between a virtual scavenger hunting game and criminality.”

Harvey said Pokémon Go warns players to keep aware of their surroundings during their virtual treasure hunt. But after only a few days since its release, it has already led people into a string of bizarre incidents.

“People have ended up in hospitals after chasing nonexistent animals into hazardous spots,” he said. “I will finally warn players not to break the law or endanger themselves while ‘Pokémoning,’” he said.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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