Pokémon Go at UM

Pokemon Go Screen

We'd like to thank our guest author, Breanna Hamm, for writing about this very popular game!

Have you noticed more people than usual walking around town while looking at their phones? This is thanks to last week’s U.S. release of Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go is currently the most-popular augmented reality (AR) game available on Apple and Android mobile devices, and it’s getting people to go outside and get active. To play the game, players must walk through the real world to find virtual Pokémon that they can collect, train, and battle. These Pokémon range from common to rare and some can only be found in certain locations, such as water Pokémon can be found near rivers and lakes. Pokémon Go is not only for children, and you can observe just as many adults enjoying the game.

Pokémon Go features three teams - Team Instinct (yellow), Team Mystic (blue), and Team Valor (red). Players from different teams can battle against one another at Gyms, which are designated locations where you can train your Pokémon or fight against other teams to claim that Gym for your team. In addition to Gyms there are PokéStops where players can earn free items and experience points (XP).

Pokémon Go is similar to games like Geocaching and Ingress, where it uses GPS information to track a user’s location and direct them toward designated locations where they can find Pokémon, grab freebies from Pokéstops, or battle and train at Gyms. Niantic helped develop both Pokémon Go and Ingress and much of the Pokémon Go data was taken from Ingress. Pokéstops and Gyms are often found near public art, murals, historical markers, and other notable locations. Because of this, downtown Ann Arbor and campus provide the perfect settings for finding lots of Pokémon and Pokémon Go goodies! Searching through Facebook events, one can find several Pokémon Go meetups in the Ann Arbor area.  

On the University of Michigan campus, Gyms are located at notable landmarks such as The Michigan Stadium, The Cube “Endover” at the Michigan Union, Regeneration of Time statue at the Medical Campus, and The College of Engineering M on North Campus. Pokéstops are even more abundant and can be found at places such as the UM University Sundial, Detroit Observatory ‘1854’, Bust of Alexander Ruthven, and even the Askwith Media Library.

The UM campus provides the perfect backdrop for playing the game because you are likely to run into other players and there are so many Pokéstops and Gyms that one could spend a whole afternoon on campus – or as long at their phone battery lasts – catching Pokémon. And if you’re like me, you will hopefully learn more about the art and history monuments around campus that are easy to overlook while rushing across campus, but can be enjoyed and appreciate while playing a game.

I must admit, it’s a fun experience to walk across central campus and see a swarm of other Pokémon trainers who are gathered around a cluster of Pokéstops. Another feature of Pokémon Go are Lure Modules, which can be “installed” at a Pokéstop to lure more Pokémon to that location for 30 minutes. There are always several active Lure Modules on campus and many times they are clustered together near multiple Pokéstops. With Pokémon Go being played by so many people, it makes it more exciting to be a part of the game where there’s always have active players who you can interact with both in the game and in the real world.

While Pokémon Go is the an incredible fun and popular mobile game that’s getting us to go outside and move, it has certainly come with its fair share of controversy. Just within the past week we have seen news reports of a girl finding a dead body, the Holocaust Museum asking players not to play there, and the concerns of how privilege plays into the game.

Additionally, there have been some accidents and safety concerns. Players were robbed when lured to a Pokéstop, a driver playing Pokémon Go crashed his car into a tree, two hikers walked off a cliff, and two people were charged with criminal trespassing for climbing a fence into the Toledo Zoo.

Be careful out there my fellow Pokémon Trainers, and let’s hope the future of Pokémon Go becomes safer and more inclusive as it grows. As a campus, we can also work together to build a safe and inclusive community for Pokémon Go players. We can do some simple things such as going Pokémon hunting with friends and including other players who are in underprivileged communities who may not be able to enjoy the game as easily or as thoroughly, or watching out for other players and ensure everyone is being safe.

I hope you all are enjoying Pokémon Go as I have and maybe I will see you out in the world catching Pokémon. Be safe and have fun, everyone!

Breanna Hamm

Instructional Technologist, University of Michigan Library

Member of Team Valor