Teenagers play Pokemon Go at Memorial Park in Hope.

Pokémon Go fever comes to town

Hope goes “Pika! Pika!” over the new and free cellphone game.

A Volkswagen minivan cruises through the downtown two Friday evenings ago. As its driver goes from street to street, its passenger intently stares into her cell phone.

A group of teenage boys and girls cycle and skateboard through the downtown. They too are on their cell phones roaming street by street.

A 50-year-old man walks by Memorial Park, seeing the teenagers.

“Are you playing Pokémon too?” he asks.

Welcome to Pokémon Go, the new craze gripping Hope.

The free cellphone game, which requires players to roam around town in order to catch and battle virtual creatures, has gripped residents of Hope, transcending age, race and gender.

“I’m a Reddit user, and I saw a bunch of posts for this Pokémon Go game,” said Ferdinand Alcos, the 50-year-old Hope resident. “I thought it was just a handheld game and a stupid fad.”

At his age, Alcos admits he felt out of place playing the game, but he thoroughly enjoys it.

“I kept seeing that people were walking around the streets with it, so I had to look it up,” said Alcos. “It’s something new. It’s the kid in me.”

Alcos has never had an interest in Pokémon in his life, until now.

“My kids watched it, so I’m only familiar with the name Pikachu,” he said. “But I like this idea and it’s addictive.”

Grade 10 student Tanner Cormier just started playing last Monday but already, his peers have nominated him as the pro.

He noticed that playing the game in Hope presents unique challenges and opportunities.

“Since it’s a small town, there’s less people, and there’s less lure modules getting placed,” said Tanner last Friday.

A lure module is a tool used by players to attract Pokémon to a certain location for easy catching.

“When I was in Chilliwack today, I went to a park, and there was about 20 people all grouped up with lure modules altogether, and in Hope there’s only about five of us playing together,” he added.

Tanner said he roams around town to catch Pokémon, and finds that Memorial Park and the Fraser River are hot spots for catching Pokémon.

He said that near his home, he only finds two or three different kinds of Pokémon.

“But when I go to parks, I can find a lot of different types of Pokémon,” said Tanner. “And I can get water Pokémon near the water, so that’s cool.”

He also adds that he finds stronger Pokémon at night.

“Get all the gyms you can, and claim your daily defender bonus, because then you can buy helpful stuff like lucky eggs or lure modules, and practise throwing good Pokéballs,” he added.

The game was released to Canadian audiences on Sunday, and iPhone and Android users can download the game from their respective app stores, although some have had access to it before its official release through unofficial methods.

In the few weeks that Canadians have had access to the game, it has stirred up concerns about safety.

The crux of the many concerns stem from the game’s requirement for players to keep a close eye on their phones.

“I can see people getting hurt — not paying attention, you’re too involved in the game,” said Alcos. “And I felt it at the beginning and I still have to remember that I’m on the street and I don’t want to be bumping into things and get hit by a car.”

Hope RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Karol Rehdner also voiced his concerns about playing the game on the streets.

“Safety is and shall always be our primary concern regardless of the activity,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings and put down the phone while driving. A distracted driver is at a much greater risk to become involved in an accident.”