Pokémon GO players who want to be the very best, like no one ever was, will find lots of activities in Delaware. But police are asking aspiring Pokemon masters to play it safe in their quests to catch them all.
Pokémon GO is a free location-based game for iOS and Android phones that allows players to find Pokémon in the real world through the use of GPS and augmented reality. The game launched on July 6 and has since become the most downloaded app on both platform’s stores.
Players can find Pokémon by walking around in the real world with the app open. If they find a Pokémon, it will appear on the user’s phone and projected onto the real-world sidewalks or grass. Players can find Pokémon virtually anywhere if they are willing to walk.
“Players can explore the world and play the game while keeping their attention on the people and sites around them,” said developer John Hanke and the rest of the team at Niantic in a blog entry for the game’s launch. “A walk in the park just became more fun.”
Two key components of the game are Pokéstops, which are local landmarks that reward players with free items when they come nearby and Pokémon Gyms which allow players and the game’s three teams to compete for control by battling Pokémon.
Delaware Police Captain Adam Moore said police were notified about the game shortly after its launch when it was discovered that the law enforcement memorial in front of the city of Delaware municipal building was a Pokémon Gym and the memorial honoring Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy Rea Christian Horlocker was designated a Pokéstop by the game.
Other Pokémon Gyms in the city include the Delaware County District Library and the plaque honoring Delaware’s participation in the Underground Railroad located near the bike path on East William Street and North Henry Street.
Moore said the police have no problem with players exploring the city as long as they don’t trespass and stay out of city parks after closing.
“My thoughts would be the same for kids out hunting Pokémon as it would be for kids walking to the park,” Moore said. “Walk with someone else when possible, make sure an adult knows where you’re headed. Avoid areas where you cannot be seen, like dark alleys and never agree to meet people you do not know over social media, internet games, etc. We also suggest that individuals be aware of their surroundings and not to focus on electronics, music, cellphones. This way they would notice someone approaching, potential dangers (walking into the path of a car), etc. Pokémon could present a danger if it requires the user to be preoccupied with their phone.
“Of course it’s absolutely not a good idea to play theses games while actively driving,” Moore said.
Many of the Pokéstops in downtown Delaware have to do with local history, including stops at the Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial on William Street and the water mark signs from the 1913 Olentangy River flood, as well as many local churches.
Delaware County Historical Society Executive Director Donna Meyer said Pokémon GO is a good way for residents to learn about local history.
“Anything that makes people interested in history is a good thing,” Meyer said. Meyer said the challenge is how to make history relevant to kids and adults and welcomed players visiting landmarks for the rewards but said she hopes they also take time to read what the landmark stands for.
“The big challenge right now is that people are just walking around and looking at their phones and not watching where they are going; but that was a problem before Pokémon,” Meyer said.
Similarly, Ohio Wesleyan University features dozens of Pokéstops at many of the university’s landmarks and memorials.
“We hope they catch ’em all!” said Cole Hatcher, director of media & community relations at OWU. “And, of course, we remind everyone to be careful as they walk around while looking at their phones.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.