In the course of one week, the “augmented reality” game Pokemon Go became a huge sensation across the country. It was released July 7 by game developer Niantic.
As players flit around cities and towns, some youth organizations quickly got involved.
Middlesex Community College in Bedford and Lowell, Massachusetts, has added two weeklong Pokemon Camps to its lineup of summer camps for youth. And some YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs are drawing attention to the Poke Stops in their area. Poke Stops function as in-game markers and hot spots for Pokemon activity, and are assigned to local highlights like statues, museums and stores.
These organizations see the game as a good way to get kids outdoors and active as long as safety precautions are taken.
Pokemon Go is played using a free app downloaded to iPhones or Android devices. The phone’s GPS reads the user’s real-world location and overlays the quirky Pokemon characters at real locations shown on the screen. Players move around public places to search out the characters and capture them by throwing a virtual ball.
"Over the past week, we've seen literally hundreds of people coming to our campuses to chase and capture these Pokemon characters," Marci Barnes said in a blog on the Middlesex Community College summer camp website. Barnes is director of lifelong learning at the college and runs the summer camp program that draws about 500 kids ages 8 to 15.
Last week “my staff came in and were talking about how they spent the weekend playing Pokemon Go,” she said.
Barnes and the staff, who are mostly public school teachers, quickly organized the Pokemon Go camps.
Kids will be taken to downtown Lowell, Bedford and Billerica, Massachusetts, to catch the Pokemon lurking there. They’ll also get classroom instruction about safety while playing.
“We feel the safety aspect is critical to the successful enjoyment of the phenomenon,” Barnes said in the blog.
People playing Pokemon Go stock up on balls and other game-related items by going to additional locations the game developer has designated as Poke Stops. These locations are often in public places such as parks, playgrounds and zoos.
“Did you know we have a rattata in our lobby[?]” posted the Clarksville YMCA on its Facebook page last week. A Rattata is a mouse-like Pokemon character.
“… And our sign is a pokèstop!” the Y exclaimed in its post. “Come on in and see us …!”
The Seymour Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley in Shelton, Connecticut, posted: “Everyone at the Seymour Club has Pokemon Go fever! We stayed active today by chasing Pokemon all around the Club. We even ventured out to some local Pokestops!”
Adrianna Rivera, who manages the front desk at the Seymour club said the kids love playing.
“The staff take out a group and walk to where the Pokemon are,” she said. It’s a good way to get kids outside and interacting with each other, she said.
Three Poke Stops near the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor in Los Angeles are being used as a fundraising tool. The club is urging Pokeman Go players to take a snapshot of the barcodes there and donate money via phone.
The game’s value as exercise is a big part of its appeal.
“We hear Pokémon Go is keeping people active and moving and we LOVE that! Here are 7 tips for playing this new craze from USA TODAY We're looking too! Who knows one of our Y's may just be a Pokespot module #pokemongo #fun #getmoving,” the Ipswich Family YMCA in Ipswich, Massachusetts, posted on Facebook on July 11.