If you've been downtown in Cedar Rapids lately you've seen them; the endless hordes of seemingly mindless zombies...Gggaaiiiinnnssss... ggaiiinnsss...must...gain...pokemon. Countless 20-somethings eyes glued to their phone frequently stopping to flick the screen and trudge along.

Photo by Jon Biegen

So what the heck is this craze all about? Where are all the children? Is our city doomed by a plague of nostalgia poke-hungry millennials!? ...Maybe? But this is not at all a bad thing.

What makes Pokemon go so appealing is that after millions in sales Nintendo has finally decided to step into the world of apps. While the recent release of Miitomo Nintendo's first phone app, people were excited for Nintendo to finally start making phone games. However the success of Miitomo doesn't compare to the Billions Pokemon Go is already worth. IT is not the fact that we can now easily play a socially interactive pokemon game on our phones, but the content itself.

In 1996 Pokemon Red and Blue were released for GameBoy and at 7 years old I was thrilled. A wonderful battling game where my friends and I could collect 150 pocket monsters and battle them in gyms and with our friends at lunch. Over several years the series grew more popular, a cartoon was developed, and more pokemon were added. Pokemon grew between Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS and so on.

However the nostalgia for the original 150 pokemon in the first few games and cartoon were fan favorites. Pokemon Go contains only original pokemon from this series thus far, and has captured the hearts of original players now in their mid 20s all over again. When I was a child, I had a pokemon called Jolteon. Nintendo is smart enough to have me grow through each game transferring my pokemon from system to system. Coming out in November, it will be possible to have caught a pokemon in 1996 and still have it as a playable character in the new games 20 years later. It was always about being social, but we never had to leave our houses...until now...Pokemon are out in the streets, and in our homes. But stay in a spot without them and expect nothing. Wanting to play from the warmth of my bed a few nights ago I convinced myself to throw on pants, shoes and walk to the cemetery to collect some pokemon. Pokemon Go has caused more people to be physically active than many video games before.

 

The lure of Pokemon Go is the nostalgia of pokemon we have grown up with since 1996, combined with a relatable map (our own neighborhoods) and the ability to help each other catch pokemon. The goal is to collect pokemon, and gain items to help them grow stronger. Once strong you can post them to defend bases, after choosing one of three teams. You can add your pokemon to a gym (at a real life location such as Greene Square.) and set them to defend the gym with other strangers or new friends that add theirs on. Other teams try to defeat your pokemon and claim gyms for their own. It's all very supportive and team based, I have already met so many friendly people. It is so popular that in many cases people can point out places to find better Pokemon to people they see strolling with their phones without having to ask if they're even playing.

This is only the beginning. Certain items are only collectable by driving by hotspots, I have one near my house, this data is imported from a previous game called Ingress where players would travel to real locations in their city to claim portals. This data was collected and cleaned up to put into Pokemon Go, which is why your favorite restaurants and monuments when visited will help you gain points. Never has a video game changed my route for work to collect more items for the day. Other people are traveling to places in their neighborhoods that they have never been to and discovering areas of their cities they normally wouldn't visit in pursuit of rare pokemon. Downtown Cedar Rapids tends to be littered. There are also items people can place such as Lures, to attract Pokemon to a spot within a few foot radius, which is why you will see several people gathered around a specific bench.

Cedar Rapids Downtown in Pokemon Go.

Love it or leave it, Pokemon Go is hear to stay. More pokemon will be added, but we don't know if we will ever have the ability to battle directly between players or what new items and features will be available. Still on the fence?

Try for yourself: Pokemon Go

And for those of you already players...Watch out for my Vaporeon who will absolutely destroy your gyms in a few months downtown.