Some of Olympia’s prettiest parks and waterfront spots have been filled with people — all staring at their phones.
That’s because they are on a mission to find and capture Pokémon — they aren’t there for the scenery.
“Gotta catch ’em all” is the popular slogan millions of people around the world have embraced after the game app Pokémon Go was released last week. It is already the top app in the Apple and Android app stores and is expected to surpass Twitter in daily activity.
“It’s awesome,” 10-year-old Miles Salvi said when The Olympian spotted him Monday at Percival Landing looking for Pokestops. He downloaded the game the day after it was released and has since spent hours walking around playing it.
Local people of all ages are devoting large amounts of time to the new game. It keeps players attached to their screens, but out in the community exploring.
Salvi’s mother said she tracked where he went with the GPS in his phone and was glad the game kept people walking around and getting exercise in a fun way.
Within the augmented reality game, players create an avatar and can see virtual Pokémon creatures, and capture them using the GPS capabilities in cell phones. Players can then go to Pokéstops, locations where they can collect rewards, and gyms, where they can train their Pokémon to battle.
The Olympia waterfront was filled with young people and families staying active while they searched for Pokémon on Monday.
Gene Bowdish said he, his wife and their two children had been finding Pokémon throughout their walk along the water and he was glad it got people out of the house and doing something fun.
Olympia is home to many Pokestops and gyms. A popular gym is located near Lakefair, which kicks off on Wednesday in Heritage Park and will draw its own big crowds.
One man told The Olympian he didn’t have time to stop and comment for this story because he only had 11 minutes to get downtown and catch a Pokémon he had gotten an incense about. Incense is a tool in the game to lure nearby creatures. It also was recently used by Missouri armed robbers to lure their Pokemon-playing victims to a secluded trap.
During the weekend, Olympia Police officers on walking patrol downtown noticed the sudden increase in people staring at their phones.
Lt. Paul Lower said they haven’t had any issues because of people playing the game. Officers said their weekend patrols were more fun because of their interactions with the players. They were glad people were out enjoying the day and everyone was in a good mood and friendly, he said.
The Olympia Police Department and City Hall building is a Pokéstop. The location of Pokéstops were designated based on user data from the Google game Ingress. Pokémon Go was created by Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and former Google subsidiary Niantic Labs, who created Ingress.
Other Pokéstops include the Olympia Fire Department and many local parks and churches. Pokéstops are only supposed to be on public property, but a Massachusetts man tweeted that his home, a converted church building, is a Poké gym.
He was concerned the game’s creators had not made a way for him to change the location of the gym.
Not all communities have had positive experiences with the game in the week since the game was released.
Besides the Missouri robbery, there have been reports of players walking into dangerous situations, causing car accidents by playing while driving, and finding a dead body while searching for Pokémon.
Pokemon Go meetups are planned for the coming weeks in Seattle and Portland and there are multiple Olympia Pokemon Go Facebook Groups with hundreds of members.
“I like that you can play it anywhere,” said Dylan Awana, a teenager from Hawaii who was in Olympia visiting family this week.
“Pokémon are everywhere and it’s very open to new players.”