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Pokemon Go gets its fans moving, smartphones in hand
Popular game's mobile reboot bringing people together
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Individuals walk around the square Wednesday evening in downtown Gainesville playing “Pokemon Go.” Released July 6, the smartphone version of a game long popularized in card and video game form has taken on a new wave of attention. - photo by Erin O. Smith

“Pokemon Go” has caught on fast, and players in Hall County are singing its praises for making its users more active.

Released July 6, the smartphone version of a game long popularized in card, video game and anime form has taken on a new wave of attention. It uses GPS and augmented reality technology to encourage players to capture Japanese cartoon characters known as Pokemon.

Once users see on GPS the general area where a Pokemon is, they have to reach its exact location to catch it.

Fredy Euyoque, 18, was in the middle of the downtown Gainesville square around lunchtime Wednesday with a group of friends playing the game.

“This is the most active you’ve seen teenagers in a long time,” said Euyoque, adding that you can’t just sit down and play the game.

As Euyoque and his friends were playing, Alan Wine, 32, walked through the square and gave them advice on where he had some success with Pokemon Go.

Wine had previously played Pokemon both with cards and on Game Boy Advance but likes the format of the newest version.

“I’m out doing something,” Wine said. “I’m not at home.”

Kyle Moss, 23, was playing on the square around 5 p.m. Wednesday. He said the augmented reality aspect has pulled in longtime Pokemon fans and new users alike. Moss added that people have been “camping out” on the square playing the game.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Moss said.

Wine said he had played one night until 2 a.m.

“It’s geocaching with a different aspect to it,” Wine said.

Euyoque said he and his friends like playing in groups because some concerns have been raised about muggings or other dangers for players. The game can drain phones’ battery power quickly, as well, so the Gainesville square is ideal because of the outlets to charge phones, located in poles around the downtown area. It also has many real-life landmarks that serve as Pokestops.

“This spot is the best,” Euyoque said.

The Poke stops are vital to helping players maintain their ability to excel by replenishing their Poke Balls, while also accumulating “revives” and “potions.”

Lucy Hernandez, 17, and Hunter Strange, 19, who both live in Lula, were on the Gainesville square Wednesday afternoon looking to catch more characters. They said they were also at the square Friday in their car, playing the game, and looked up and wondered why so many people were on their phones on the square. All they had to do was look back in their hands for the answer.

Strange said the aspect of meeting up with friends and meeting new people is one of the enjoyable parts of the game.

“Everybody’s doing it,” Strange said.

The sharing of best spots is a way the game is “bringing people together,” Wine said.

Euyoque said the game’s servers struggled with so many users at the beginning. Wine hopes “Pokemon Go” can find some sustainability by keeping the game updated and making sure player-vs.-player and trades become a part of the app.

Euyoque knows some of his friends aren’t sold, even joking with him that he should get a job.

“I have a job,” Euyoque said. “This is my free time.”

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