Pokémon trainers are catching them all as Pokémon Go takes Vernon by storm.
Pokémon Go, a free app downloadable on tablets and phones, uses GPS similar to geocaching to track virtual Pokémon in the real world.
Poké Stops, landmarks such a monuments, buildings or parks, have trainers hunting for virtual items and discovering their community.
Jesse Jackson enjoyed a recent afternoon hunting Pokémon with his son, Liam, six, in Polson Park.
“The park is full of Poké Stops and multiple gyms. It also has WiFi, so folks without a data connection can still play,” he said.
The father of four has three sons that play the game.
“The first day we installed it, the boys and I walked over three kilometres. We’re constantly meeting other people who are also playing it. Everyone is really friendly; it’s like we’re all on this big scavenger hunt together. ”
Jackson thinks the app will have a positive effect on tourism in Vernon.
“There’s going to be way more walking traffic downtown, and people exploring local parks, landmarks, and businesses.”
Eleven-year-old Shae Vance and her father, Josh Vance, uncovered locations that they didn’t notice before as they explored Polson Park for mystical items.
“We’ve lived here for 11 years, the things you miss,” said Josh.
The experience has also had a positive effect on Shae as she has autism.
“It’s distracted her from some of the sensitivities she has,” he said.
James Boschman, manager and IT for Vernon’s Downtown Internet Lounge adds: “It’s the whole concept of having a collection.”
The Pokémon randomly appear around town. Players can also battle at Pokémon gyms as part of three different teams, which are spots usually located around buildings.
“There’s gyms at the courthouse… on the corner past Denny’s. It’s generally a building,” said Boschman.
The main locations in Vernon are around the downtown area and in the parks.
He hasn’t heard of any accidents occurring around town, other than a pedestrian who was rubbed by a vehicle due to their lack of attention to the road.
“But there’s also the positive aspect of exercise,” he said. “A kid walked in (to the store) and swore he’s never walked so much in his life.”
SFU School of Interactive Art and Technology professor Carman Neustaedter says: “By interacting with real-world locations, it feels like you’re much more immersed in the game itself.”
The app was made available in Canada last Sunday.
Boschman saw 10 to 15 people walking around downtown Vernon at around 1 a.m.
If the location of a Poké Stop is too dangerous, one can also petition to change it, he said.
He estimated that one-third of the people he‘s seen are adults with their heads in their phones.
“There’s this nostalgia for adults and excitement for kids getting into Pokémon,” said Neustaedter.
Local trainers Zed Wells, 21, and Andrew Lavallee, 23, hunted Pokémon for hours for that exact reason.
“It came out when we were born and we watched the show,” said Wells. The pair grew up with the games, shows, and movies.
However, they warned that some Poké Stops were off-limits.
They found a Poké Stop that was on private property and avoided the location, said Wells.
The trainers haven’t faced issues with the notorious battery-draining ability of the game as Wells keeps a charger in his car.
The RCMP haven’t had any incidents reported regarding the app.
“(There’s) nothing from the Pokémon camp in Vernon, players are not coming to our attention,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
“Be aware of your surroundings and do not let playing the game distract you to the point of it placing you in danger… Respect private property and public spaces.”