In Tampa and across the world, Pokemon GO is a cultural and social phenomenon

Pokemon GO is changing the way we play and interact with each other

Pokemania has become a real thing with Nintendo and Niantic’s release of Pokemon GO. If you aren’t currently playing, I’m sure you know someone who is, or have at very least seen people on social media posting pics. It’s taken off like wildfire and in the few days I’ve had with the game, I’ve noticed some awesome stuff. It’s a game that makes getting out of the house fun, but it also has become an awesome tool in many other ways. I’d like to tell you a few stories of my Poke-adventures so far.

Pokemon goThe first time I ran out of Pokeballs, I was trying to catch a Pidgeot in my backyard. He was strong for my level, with a CP of 145 and I wasn’t about to let it escape. I threw some pants on and told my wife I’d be right back as I hopped into my car and circled my neighborhood twice to hit the 2 PokeStops near my home. I got my Pokeballs, but I wasn’t the only one deciding to make a late-night pit stop to our clock tower and our local playground. At our clock tower, there were 4 people out there hanging out, playing the game, while 3 cars were circling the area on the roundabout. After getting what I needed at the clock tower, I headed to the park, where a few cars were parked and people were sitting on the benches with their phones. At 11:30 at night.

The social phenomenon doesn’t stop there, however. I dropped a lure the next day at the clock tower and decided I’d catch some Pokemon and get some items while the kids played. Not too long after I did so, people started showing up. Everyone that showed up fit a different category too. All in all, I met 17 different Pokemon trainers while at the clock tower and we exchanged tips, tricks and discussed gym tactics. It was amazing! As my lure expired, another guy used one of his so we could continue to hang out. As one guy commented, “I’ve lived out here since they built the clock tower, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people here without an event going on.”

JCPI wanted to test the real limits to the Pokemon GO craze. I visited Joe Chillura Courthouse Square, a well known park in the middle of the business district of downtown Tampa. This is a spot that many people in the area stop to eat at, reflect on their day or just take a break when walking in town. Thing is, it’s not a park you go out of your way to get to though. I tried using lures here. For the first 10 minutes, I noticed people slowing their cars a bit as they drove by. Dangerous, but interesting. Then, I saw one of our local bike cops stop and check his phone… and open up Pokemon GO. I was partially blind to all the people coming by the part in their business suits and construction gear, but after taking a moment to really stop and look, 80% of all the people that had stopped at the park were all playing Pokemon GO. We are talking about at least 30 people. I met a gentleman who said he was a lawyer and had noticed the lure was active, so he decided to take a break and check it out.

Later on in the day, I noticed that the fountain in one of our local Japanese takeout places was also a PokeStop. I didn’t drop a lure, but I was hungry, so I decided to pay them a visit. While ordering my food, I asked if person at the counter if she knew that the koi fountain in their store was a PokeStop. She excitedly told me that as of Thursday, they get so busy that people are waiting outside to come in. She told me that on Saturday, someone had used a lure, and there were too many people that visited.

My new gym, courtesy of Google Maps and my new buddies
My new gym, courtesy of Google Maps and my new buddies

One final thing. There’s a mural off of Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa that is a gym and was held by a trainer with an Aerodactyl. First off, I don’t know where he got it, but wow. I stopped by to try to take the gym and also see if maybe he caught it around there. I went with my Hispanic friend, and we parked by the sandwich stop connected to the gas station where the mural was at. While fumbling through the app freezing and crashing while I tried to battle for the gym, a guy from across the street at the Extended Stay hotel came running across the street. I actually expected him to be coming over to ask for a cigarette since my buddy was having a quick smoke. Instead, he loudly exclaimed “Ey, you guys getting any good stuff over here? There’s this gym here but the guy that has it has some pterodactyl-looking mother here. Must be using cheat codes or something!” There were many more expletives in what he said, but you get the point. I told him I was taking the gym right now, he was immediately looking over my shoulder and seemed impressed by my 796 CP Vaporeon. He asked me what color I was, and I told him I was on Valor, red. He then told me that if I took the gym, he and his boys would help hold it down. Sure enough, I held the gym for a good bit and it was upgraded all the way with a full lineup of gym supporters when I visited later that day. He was a man of his word, I guess his boys were too.

Here’s the thing, Tampa never gets into the whole video game craze. People here just seem to never want to go through the effort that you’d see in cities like Las Vegas, Chicago or even Los Angeles. With Pokemon GO, I saw stores with signs advertising PokeStop specials, people visiting landmarks they didn’t even know existed and I even plan on going to a pub crawl in about a week. Pokemon GO is more than a game right now, it’s a way to connect with anyone, regardless of color, standing or anything else. That’s pretty cool.

Go out and have some adventures in your own area. Pokemon GO will give you all that you need to make it happen. Do me a favor though, give another trainer a high five while you are out there!