As little of surprise as it is, summer in Chicago is undoubtedly packed full with countless activities and festivals that serve as just some of the many reasons to go outside and enjoy the summer sun. And whether it’s a bike ride or the beach, or maybe just a pleasant walk with your dog, there has never been a better time than summer to explore Chicago and its neighborhoods. But the time for exploring is done, the time for hunting has begun.
Hunting for Pokemon.
Upon its launch earlier this month, the smartphone application game, “Pokemon Go” has effectively reached record heights of popularity — and DePaul is no exception.
“I think we can attribute Pokemon’s success to its accessibility. As far as the core games go, they’re games that anybody can pick up and play, from little kids to adults, and find it rewarding. This is because the games offer a multitude of ways to play,” Jef Burnham, a Media and Cinema Studies instructor at DePaul University, said in an email. “You can simply play through the narrative and beat the gyms. Or, if you’re an older player looking for a deeper gaming experience, you can go about collecting them all or breeding Pokemon in search of shinies.”
A search that is almost endless.
The mobile game, which has more than 22 million daily users that surpass Candy Crush and Twitter, brilliantly captures and brings the Pokemon world to life, as you — the user —plays as a trainer who must physically walk around the city in hopes to not only find Pokemon, but battle other users in placed Poke Gyms as well. It’s a mobile game not only for Pokemon fans who grew up with the trading cards and cartoon show, but also for the newcomers who have never ventured into the extensive Pokemon lore.
And while “Pokemon Go” serves as another reason for everyone alike to enjoy Chicago’s outdoor hot weather, the mobile game has also spawned Pokemon communities and groups across the city. Even one at DePaul, appropriately titled GO Blue Demons.
“After seeing other Chicago ‘Pokemon Go’ Facebook groups, a lot of the people on the message boards would say they’re from the Sheffield area, or Kenmore, things like that. I saw people I knew, people from school, I mean everyone was playing the game. So why not make a group to collaborate with other students, especially during the fall when school starts,” said Matthew Joseph Verive, a DePaul student and the creator and administrator of the Facebook group. “I was only expecting 10 to maybe 15 people to join this group, when now we’re almost at 200 members.”
Any DePaul student that plays the game could tell you that the campus is Pokemon friendly — from the quad being quite the hotspot of Pokemon big and small, to the Pokemon maps and phone recharge stations provided by the Ray Meyer Fitness Center. For many college students, playing Pokemon is nothing but nostalgic.
Verive’s extensive Pokemon knowledge and gameplay started quite young — as a kid, like many, enthralled with the vast world of evolving creatures and characters.
“We had gotten a Gameboy Advance for Christmas back in 2004, and I remember I went to the store and got my first Pokemon game,” Verive said . “And from then on, I’ve gotten and played every game since.”
Verive even took his Pokemon interests a step further, when at 8 years old, he created, designed, and coded his own Pokemon fan website, PidgiNet, which still runs today.
And as the Pokemon community on DePaul’s campus continues growing, the fan community within Chicago has become staggering, as well. Numerous Chicago Pokemon Facebook groups have reached thousands of members, who not only share their Pokemon records and sightings, but even organize meetups in the city. The biggest of these meetups was held in Millennium Park a week ago, where thousands dressed up, and gathered to show off their best Pokemon and attempt battle against their opposing teams.
“It was a lot of fun. A ton of people dressed up (including myself) and the whole event was super organized with a point system for taking gyms and playing with people on the same team as you,” said DePaul student Mary Doerries. “The servers were down basically the whole time because they just released the game in Canada, so no one actually got to play Pokemon Go at the meet up. But it was still fun meeting and socializing with people who also love the game.”
“One girl even came up from Springfield for the meetup!”