Pokémon Go: Looking up in Edmonds

By Maria A. Montalvo | Mar 01, 2019

As we turned the corner on the last unseasonably warm and sunny February Saturday, we almost ran into two of a couple of dozen people standing on all four corners of the intersection at Main and Fifth, looking down.

The two men, in their early 30s, were animatedly talking but not looking at each other; rather, both were staring at and holding their phones with two hands.

Beyond them, on the side of the street by the Little Bipsy store, more than 12 men and women, ranging in age from about 18 to 40, were standing two to three feet apart, all holding their phones in their hands and looking at them intently.

“Excuse me,” I said, as I paused next to the man in a black leather jacket. “What is everyone doing?”

“Playing Pokémon Go, of course,” he said, without raising his eyes.

“Ahhhhh ….” My voice trailed off as we crossed the street. At least six more people were standing in front of Starbucks, and the cars going around the fountain stopped and started more than usual, as they attempted to guess the direction of the Pokémon pedestrians.

Edmonds was actually hosting a Pokémon World of Collections League Challenge, a “sanctioned” event that, from what I understand, was organized by a certified Pokémon professor and contributes to points and standings in the Play! Pokémon international leaderboards.

Looking to our left, we noticed a family of four staring at their phones nearing the intersection by the Red Twig. Luckily, dad looked up in time to check for traffic.

“I didn’t realize Pokémon was still a thing,” I said, as we strolled around three sets of couples bowing their heads by the Savvy Traveler.

Not only is it still a thing, but Pokémon groups all across the country (and the world) regularly schedule Pokémon Community Days, or League Challenges, or even Tournaments. There are card and video games, and during organized events, participants will come together to play, trade, and earn prizes.

In front of Café Louvre, five women turned awkwardly toward the building, attempting to navigate around the planters without dropping their phones, as we stood nearby chatting with a friend.

Since its release in 2016, when we saw endless news stories of people falling, tripping or running into a variety of hazards, Pokémon Go is now more popular than ever, with more than 147 million active users as of the summer of 2018.

The Pokémon TCG Leaderboards (that’s Trading Card Game), or PTCG to those in the know, list names and avatars of players from Brazil, Australia, the U.S., Great Britain, Taiwan, Venezuela (are people really playing Pokémon in Venezuela right now?), the US Virgin Islands (Pokémon by the beach?), Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, and many more.

In fact, players can search for Pokémon events in 56 countries around the globe.

As we drove out of town, we passed a couple that appeared to be staring into a large hedge, but who were in fact, holding their phones and gazing in the direction of a virtual reality that we could not imagine.

When I asked the guy in the black jacket what was going on, I was thinking, “I wish someone would offer to explain the game to me, or at least look up for a second ….”

But then again, escapism usually involves disengaging from the real world.

Did you know National Pokémon Day in 2019 is Wednesday, Feb. 27? Neither did I, but I Googled it. I also did some research and was relieved to find that Venezuela does not have any current live Pokémon events, but OrsonHR, the ponytailed girl in yellow coming in third in the TCG Legacy game. is playing in the online format.

I suppose Pokémon is still a good distraction from politics there these days, and perhaps everywhere.

 

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