Pokemon Go hype loses momentum on campus


Bailey Carter, a Pokemon Go player, uses his phone to catch a digital Pidgeotto in Pokémon Go outside the Wood Center on Sept. 29, 2016. David Jones/ Sun Star

Last summer’s release of Pokemon Go sent Aaron Hughes, 23, and many others outdoors looking for Jigglypuffs, Staryus and Sandslashes.

“At it’s peak, I would play when I was outside and it was convenient to do so,” Hughes said.

However, it seems that Pokemon Go’s widespread fame and replay value were not to last, at least, not for some people Hughes realized that it wasn’t long before he was no longer having fun with the game.

“I played it for about three weeks before losing interest. It’s okay for a mobile game, but like all mobile games is nothing special,” Hughes said.

Players of Pokemon Go, distributed as a free app for Android and iOS phones, adopt the role of Pokemon trainers on the hunt for the eponymous “pocket monsters.” The game takes aspects of the popular Nintendo series — collecting, training,and battling — and places those elements in the real world through players’ cameras and GPS modules. Players catch Pokemon, collect items from “PokeStops” and battle for control of “gyms” by walking to locations around the world including UAF campus.

Earlier this year, Ronnie Houchin, Transition Programs coordinator, organized a Pokemon Go Scavenger Hunt for all incoming freshmen on the last day of Orientation. The scavenger hunt toured many UAF facilities and important buildings, culminating in a barbecue at the Student Recreation Center.

“We had almost 200 first-year students participate in our Pokemon Go Scavenger Hunt,” Houchin said. “So I’d say the interest [in Pokemon Go] was pretty high.”

The Student Activities Office purchased a lure (an in-game item that attracts Pokemon to a selected location) in order to draw people to the SRC PokeStop. This stop marked the end of the scavenger hunt and a barbecue location, according to Houchin.

Virtual Pokemon aside, there were also a few more tangible “Pokemon” to be found on the Scavenger Hunt. “There was a roaming group of Pikachu who turned the tables to hunt humans during the Pokemon Go scavenger hunt,” Houchin said.

“These Pikachu traveled around campus with small dodge-balls and ‘attacked’ humans as they found them,” Houchin said. Don’t get too excited about having your own personal Pokemon, however—these “Pikachu” were merely humans in Pikachu costumes.

Houchin managed to capitalize on the then-recent success of Pokemon Go. At that time, many people considered Pokemon Go to be much more than just a fun thing to open during their free time, and some devoted most of their days and nights to searching for and catching Pokemon.

An informal survey of campus last week revealed relatively few remaining “PoGo-ers.”

“A good concept but a poorly made game,” said Abe Haas, an 18-year-old self-proclaimed Pokemon Go “noob.”

Of the thirteen people interviewed, ages 18-24, about 60 percent continue to play, though only 8 still play daily.

“Battles are currently too simplistic,” Zach Milbracht, 21, said, “and the social aspect that makes Pokemon great is at this time only cursory.”

Others mentioned that there was little to actually do in-game, that the app still had bugs or that the game is still just a mobile game at heart.

Still, there are those who have good things to say about the game. Steven McGraw, a 22-year-old who considers himself an experienced Pokemon Go player, notes the game has provided him with both exercise and a way to connect with acquaintances.

“I tend to walk around a lot more. It’s a way for me and my group of friends to do something while hanging out,” Steven McGraw said.

“It brought Pokemon back into the public eye,” Eric Fitts, 20, said, though he hasn’t played Pokemon Go yet.

Aside from in-game problems, Pokemon Go caused its fair share of real-world problems elsewhere. According to Sage Lazzaro, a writer for the blog Observer, one player came across a dead body in Wyoming, another played Pokemon Go while driving and crashed into a tree and 2 men fell off a cliff while playing the game.

Bailey Carter, a 19-year-old biology student, believes these problems aren’t caused by the game.

“I think it was the people themselves,” Carter said. “Many other car crashes happen daily, and it is only noteworthy because the reason was something popular—most players don’t look up from their phones anyways.”

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2 Responses

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