Pokémon Go players at Long Beach's Shoreline Aquatic Park. Photo by Stephanie Perez.
The Pokémon Go craze that has swept the world in the past week has sprouted many a real-world meetup—and even opportunities for discounts for players—and built a growing community of Pokémon trainers right here in Long Beach.
Hundreds are expected to take part in a Pokémon Go meetup at Long Beach’s Shoreline Aquatic Park Sunday afternoon, a spot that has quickly become a favorite hangout among players, due to its abundance of wild pocket monsters and supply stops.
If you’re a Pokémon trainer, you should head over to the lighthouse at 1:00PM on Sunday, July 17, for a “lure mania,” as a Facebook event page is calling it, to catch, spin, and battle to your heart's content.
The game is so popular it even has Long Beach's own Mayor Robert Garcia looking for Pokémon. He tweeted about his first Pokémon catch, a Squirtle, on Monday.
My first Pokémon on #PokémonGO was a Squirtle - yes, I'm trying it out— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarciaLB) July 12, 2016
“It's amazing how active our parks are since the launch of the game,” Garcia commented on Facebook earlier this week.
On Monday night, this Long Beach Post reporter was out trying to catch a few more Pokémon herself, and noticed many more people of all ages out and about than usual, with phone screens lit up in hand, at Bixby Park and Bluff Park.
Beyond people now getting out and exploring community spaces, the app has also prompted some individuals to engage with fellow players and actually communicate with bonafide strangers.
“I have met more people [...] because of Pokémon,” said 29-year-old Long Beach resident Mark O’Meany. Sometimes this leads to conversation, sometimes just a momentary connection. “We exchange a look of acknowledgement [...] and we go on our way,” he said of his brief meetings with other players.
O’Meany said Pokémon Go is his “childhood dream come true,” where he went from playing Pokémon on a black-and-white Gameboy the size of a brick to actually getting to “live it by walking around in the real world catching Pokémon.”
“I usually play when I’m walking my dog, or whenever I go to the local bar or convenience store for snacks,” O’Meany said. “I’m always excited to try new spots.”
Some popular local landmarks are taking part in the hype, with gyms in which to do battle, and pokéstops where one can collect additional poké balls, including the Aquarium of the Pacific, Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) and the Long Beach Civic Center.
Some local stores are even offering discounts for gamers.
Kelli Koller, owner of Seventh Wave Surf Shop, is offering a 20 percent discount for anyone playing Pokémon Go.
Koller’s place is a Pokémon Go gym and she said she saw the “huge craze” of Pokémon Go as free marketing, and doesn’t plan on kicking anyone out. She learned about the game through one of the many players lingering outside her shop who finally explained the concept to her and even drew a Pokémon on her store’s chalkboard.
Liberty, a vintage clothing and consignment store, is a pokéstop that has advertised “15% off if you drop a lure,” referring to a module that attracts Pokémon to a pokéstop and benefits any trainer in the area.
If those aren’t good enough deals, T-Mobile announced today that as part of its T-Mobile Tuesdays series on Tuesday, July 19, customers will receive free, unlimited data on Pokémon Go until August 2017. The cell phone carrier will also offer free Lyft rides up to $15 to get to a new pokéstop or gym and a free Wendy’s Frosty to "fuel up" for the hunt. Select accessories, including portable power packs and chargers at T-Mobile stores will also be offered at up to 50 percent off—important for a game that is notoriously hard on phone batteries.
In addition, 250 people will each win $100 in PokéCoins and five people will get to win a Pokémon Go huntin trip anywhere in the U.S. for themselves and a guest.
“This is what T-Mobile Tuesday is all about – thanking customers with hot, new, totally free gifts every week, and right now, nothing is hotter than Pokémon Go!” stated John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile, in a release. “With the carriers’ shared data schemes, players could easily burn up the family’s data bucket – and then, hello, overages! At T-Mobile, we’re unleashing Pokémon Go so our customers can play free for a year. It’s gonna be a fantastic T-Mobile Tuesday!”
While T-Mobile is garnering praise from players, many are criticizing the carrier's move as breaking net neutrality, or the idea that carriers should treat all data the same no matter what app or service it comes from. T-Mobile was similarly criticized for its "Binge On" initiative, which gave users unlimited data for streaming services such as Netflix. The concern is that if carriers charge different rates for data depending on the app or service, they can control which services users use more, thereby reducing competition.
The new Pokémon Go offers will be visible in the T-Mobile Tuesdays app on iOS and Android and at www.t-mobiletuesdays.com, the release stated.
Photo by Adrian Liwanag.
While local police haven’t reported any incidents connected to the use of Pokémon Go, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies are currently investigating an assault in nearby Lakewood involving two men who were walking home from playing the game. LASD earlier this week released some safety tips for users:
- Don’t play while driving. The last thing we need is a dead Pokémon.
- Stay vigilant as you play. Distraction can cause injuries, especially when you walk into traffic.
- Play in well-lit areas. As far as we know, there are no glow-in-the-dark Pokémon.
- If you suspect you are being followed, yell for help and use your phone to call 9-1-1.
- Gamers are strangers, too. Just because they like Pokémon does not mean they will be nice to you. Be cautious of being lured into a bad situation.
- Pokémon have homes too…just not yours. So if you are not invited, stay out of private property. We can guarantee you won’t find Pokémon in a jail.
- Although you may not be able to battle your real-life BFF, you can definitely teach him some things. So have him walk with you.
- And if you see Pokémon near a deputy, let him know! Pokémon might be telling you to also look for a career! We are hiring 1-800-A-DEPUTY
“Many of our deputies continue to capture Pokémon and want to share some secrets in becoming the ultimate Ash Ketchum,” stated Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez in a press release.
Organizers of Sunday’s event said they plan to coordinate future events at local bars, which shouldn’t be a surprise for some bar owners who have come to embrace their establishments as pokéstops or gyms.
Tracy Ames, owner of the Red Leprechaun, also did not know about the game until a user finally showed her and explained that her business was a gym. Since then, she posted it on Facebook and now allows people to “stay and play” without requiring them to purchase something.
“People have been coming in left and right,” Ames said, noting that she recently saw two people that looked to be in their 50s playing.
Other Poké gyms at bars include The Silver Fox and some pokéstops include Iguana Kelly’s, The Pike, Ashley’s and Riley’s.
Above, left photo courtesy of Mark O'Meany.