Pokémon GO has become an international sensation, bridging the generational gap between first-generation Pokémon gamers in their 20s and 30s with teenagers. Although the smart phone application has received international praise and adoration, Pokémon GO has also developed an infamous reputation for distracting its users from their surroundings. Read more about Pokémon team rivalry, dangers and experiences below. Illustration by Zeakyy Harrington

by Aja Purvis and Kenytta Brown

Beau York, 37, was walking around his neighborhood with a couple of friends while heading to a nearby Pokémon gym. Suddenly, a black car approached. When the car was next to York and his friends, the driver rolled down his window.

“What team are you on?” the young guy in the car asked York.

“Team Mystic, what about you?” replied York, who runs The Podastery in downtown Jackson and is a Youth Media Project podcasting coach.

The strangers in the car were also Team Mystic. As they began to talk, a blue car pulled up next to the black car. Everyone in that car was part of Team Valor.

“You losers get out of here! This is our turf!” the two guys in the blue car yelled through the window. The “gym” belonged to Team Valor, and they feared that York and his Team Mystic friends would win a battle and take it over.

‘Pocket Monsters’

Pokémon GO, an app Niantic released in July 2016, is one of the most popular games to come along since the Candy Crush epidemic in 2012. The app became available for iOS devices on July 13 and for Android devices the next day. Pokémon GO has intrigued the minds of many children, teens and adults, who spend their free time roaming their surroundings and neighborhoods, looking for Pokémon with the aim to “catch them all.”

Pokémon, or “pocket monsters,” are Japanese creatures of varying shapes, sizes and colors who are trained by their owners, (or trainers), to evolve and gain more strength. They can live in the real world with their trainers or in Pokémon World.

One of the more popular pocket monsters, known as the face of Pokémon, is Pikachu, who is Pichu before evolving. He was a main character in the Pokémon television series.

When you start out to catch some Pokémon with the app, they haven’t evolved. The more experience you get, the higher your XP level (level of experience) gets. This gives you the opportunity to level up and strengthen the Pokémon you have in your possession. They get more combat power (CP), guaranteeing they will be more successful in battles against other pokémon.

These battles are held in a “gym.” Some of these gyms may be near your actual local gym. The locations of these gyms should appear on the map when you are within range of these places.  If you win a battle at a gym, the gym is your team’s until you are defeated in a battle. If one owns a gym for more than 24 hours, they get a gym bonus. All of these options are available once you reach level 5.

There are three teams: Team Mystic (Blue), Team Valor (Red) and Team Instinct (Yellow). If you win a battle at a gym, the gym changes to the color of your team, and anyone from any other team that comes to the gym must try to defeat you. You join the teams based off which leader’s ideas sound the best to you, as far as their procedure of bettering the performance of Pokémon goes.

Dangers of ‘PoGo’

The competition can be fierce, and even dangerous.

“I was playing PoGo (Pokémon Go) at the park the other day, and someone was driving past really slowly. He had his window down and you could see the Pokémon Go app up on his phone. People actually drive and play,” Melody Robinson told the Youth Media Project in a phone interview. The 15-year-old West Harrison High School student said she goes to the nearby Jones Parks every day at 6 p.m. to play the game.

It’s not uncommon for players to get caught up in the leisure activity, doing anything and everything they can to make sure they succeed in the game, and have accidents. On Saturday, July 12, at approximately 4 a.m., two residents of Clinton, Miss., were robbed while playing Pokémon GO. Two young men, walking on East College Street near the Mississippi College campus, were held up at gunpoint by two men in a red Buick. The men stole their phones.

Playing Pokémon GO may be a fun activity to indulge in, but problems have arisen due to people’s deep infatuation with the app, like driving while playing, trespassing and jaywalking. It seems that not everyone using the app takes note of the warning, “Remember to be alert at all times,” and “Stay aware of your surroundings.” This message is visible when first opening Pokémon GO during the short period of time that the game is loading.

If you pay attention to your surroundings, though, Pokémon GO is a good source of exercise and adventure, requiring the players of the game to travel, which many do by foot.

“It has really helped me get out of the house more,” said Chandler Wooten, a 15-year-old Murrah High School student. “Because the game is location-based, I think that it has helped me explore my city a little more. Certain pokéstops are at places I didn’t even know existed.”

It’s so fun! You just have to be willing to move around,” Wooten added.

Robinson said it’s making her more social. “It has helped me interact with others,” Robinson said. “I make a lot of friends when I go to the park because they help me out with the game.”