Left to right: Jas Scarfone,Seun Olarewaju, Kyle Kelley, and Keith Wilder about to "catch 'em all" at Suwanee Town Center

Pokémon Go has created a social environment that is brand new to the gaming world.

Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile game created and published by software development company Niantic, has encouraged people to engage in physical activity, spend time with their peers, travel, and has paved the way for players to meet in face to face interactions.  



20160714 160407 ret190“This game has done more than what it was anticipated to do and it’s beautiful,” said Andy Fleeman, 19, who was playing Pokémon Go at Lawrenceville Town Square. 

Right: Pokémon Go player Andy Fleeman about to catch a Rattata that spawned in Lawrenceville Town Square.

Fleeman, who recently moved to Lawrenceville, said the game has helped him become familiar with the area. “I just moved over here and this is a great way for me to learn all of the shops,” he said. 

At Suwanee Town Center Park is where 20-year-old Suwanee resident Jas Scarfone was playing Pokémon Go with a group of friends and she stated the game is not only fun, but “even though I have health issues, I don’t mind walking around to play it,” she said. “I appreciate that it’s bringing people together. People are so much friendlier playing this game.” 

One night Nam Nguyen, 23, of Suwanee, was playing at Suwanee Town Center when an unexpected player joined in the fun.

“It was 2 a.m. and about twelve of us were playing out here and several cops came by,” Nguyen said. “We thought we were in trouble for hanging out past midnight, but one of them ended up joining us. It was really chill having a cop sit there for 30 minutes. We taught him about the game. That was something else.”

“You get to actually go out into the world with your friends and search for Pokémon,” said Atlanta resident Brennon Krotter, 21, who joined his friends on Duluth’s Town Green to hunt Pokémon. “It gives us an excuse to go out into the world…instead of going to a game store, we get to go out to places like [Duluth Town Green]. It’s done a lot for social outings with a lot of [people interacting with other players],” Krotter said. 

Pokémon Go has been a positive experience for Lawrenceville residents Adair and Stephen Goddard, who play the game with their 13-year-old daughter Regan.  

According to Adair, considering Regan’s age and that she has played Pokémon for a few years, “we were looking for a common interest and [Pokémon Go] has been wonderful,” she said. “We’re a generation above [millennials] so all of this is new to us. We never played it as kids, we never watched the show, but we really like to get out, go to the park, and play [Pokémon Go].” 

Players are not the only ones to take advantage of this new phenomena, businesses have hopped aboard the Pokémon bandwagon as well.   

P.F Chang’s at the Mall of Georgia is a Pokeman Go gym and according to P.F. Chang’s Operating Partner James Tipton, since the release of the game, he has seen a bump in sales.

20160714 171510 ret190Left: Pokétraitrainers Sam Niakan (left), Nam Vo (center), and Brennon Krotter (right) amped for a Pokémon Go filled day at Duluth Town Green.

“We used our chalkboard and in-house artists to draw a Pokémon design, and I saw people outside taking pictures by it,” Tipton said. “It’s definitely a phenomenon and folks are taking notice.” 

Sean Michael, Front of House Manager for Mellow Mushroom at Suwanee Town Center, said he has seen an increase in sales by 5%. According to Michael, players will come to Mellow Mushroom, grab a drink or eat, venture back outside and continue playing. 

Due to the summer heat, people are more apt to play the game at night and while leaving Mellow Mushroom, Michael said he has seen a gathering of people at Suwanee Town Center. “I’ve walked out of [Mellow Mushroom] at 12:30 a.m. to 1:00 in the morning and there’s 150 to 200 people in the park still,” Michael said. 

Since the July release, Pokémon Go has been credited with helping people who suffer from mental illnesses such as agoraphobia, anxiety, or depression, as it encourages them to leave their homes and socialize. 

Clinical Psychologist Ben Michaelis, author of “You’re The Next Big Thing,” stated in his article “Can Pokémon Go Help Mental Health Patients?” thinks highly of the games like Pokémon Go.  

“For people who suffer from mental health issues— such as anxiety, agoraphobia or depression— that tend to keep them from getting out and interacting with the world, augmented reality apps and games like Pokémon GO can be helpful for getting them to engage with their surroundings,” he states. 

Child Psychiatrist Tarik Shaheen, M.D. has used Pokémon Go as a method of helping his patients according to his article “Why I Prescribe Pokémon Go for My Patients.” 

Shaheen states that some of his patients use technology as a way to connect with people as they can use it as an ice breaker. Shaheen touches on Behavioral Activation; a therapy based on Psychologist B.F. Skinner’s initial psychological studies. In short, Shaheen summarizes Behavioral Activation as “If you go out and be active with friends and have fun – you’ll feel better.” 

It is, however, imperative to remember that Pokémon Go is a game/mobile application and should not be considered a cure for mental illness. Those with mental illness should seek professional help. 

Pokémon Go players are also taking to social media to bring the Pokémon Go community together. 

There is an abundance of unofficial Pokémon Go groups on Facebook such as Gwinnett Pokémon Go (GPG) and (VOGA) Valors of Georgia. 

pokemon ret190Left: On the Square in Lawrenceville, Rattata was found on Helen’s desk at the Gwinnett Citizen.

According to Shilu Patel, an Administrator for the GPG page, the goal of the group is to spread the knowledge of Pokémon Go, have fun and build a community. Within the last week of July, GPG has reached 1,000 members according to Patel. Patel said GPG holds meet-ups so members associate and play the game together, and said GPG is available for anyone who wishes to learn more about the game. 

“We welcome anyone that wants to be a part of the community,” Patel said. “Anyone who wants to get out of the house, get together and do [a social activity], learn more about how and where to catch Pokémon, and be the best trainer they can be.” 

Much like GPG, VOGA aims to do the same, but according to VOGA Founder Justin Mooney, VOGA caters to Valor team members, and has a membership of 230 people. 

“It gets me involved and associating with other people across the state of Georgia,” Mooney said.

Currently, both groups are attempting to get in touch with Niantic to gain official status as Pokémon Go groups. 

Although Pokémon Go has created positivity within society, it has led to occurrences which have gotten media attention. 

Pokémon Go warn players to be aware of their surroundings while playing the game right as it starts up. Yet, that has not stopped people from getting into car accidents, falling off cliffs, vandalism, bullying, Pokéstop robberies, as well as a teenager finding a dead body. 

As a precaution, always play Pokémon Go in a group of at least three or more, especially at night.  

For an extensive guide on the how to play Pokémon Go visit imore.com/pokemon-go

Below: Hundreds gather to get a ‘Pikachu’ at Suwanee Town Center.

IMG 0009 ret440