Lately, it’s become common to see students hurry by in small groups, fixated on their dimly lit phone screens. It may be well past midnight, but campus isn’t asleep just yet, thanks to a new app that has swept over UTD.
“Pokemon Go,” an augmented reality mobile game, is the latest iteration of the popular “Pokemon” franchise and was released in the United States on July 6. The game allows players to capture, train and battle creatures known as Pokemon. What makes this version different from previous generations, however, is its use of a phone’s GPS and camera to superimpose imaginary creatures on a real-world map.
“I heard about (“Pokemon Go”) from friends,” said Ken Suura, a physics senior. “At first, I was… hesitant to get into it because I thought it would take over my life.”
Word-of-mouth and social media hype catapulted the game to the top of Apple and Google’s app stores within hours of its release. UTD, in particular, has become especially popular with players. The campus features over 20 Pokestops — designated areas where players can collect valuable items such as Pokemon eggs — and four gyms, where players pit their trained Pokemon against each other. For players, UTD’s campus is a “Pokemon Go” haven.
“When I got (to campus), it was crazy to see all of the Pokestops,” said Amanda Garrison, an ATEC junior. “Everybody was playing it. …It really brought the community together.”
“Everybody was playing it. …It really brought the community together.” – Amanda Garrison, ATEC Junior
Derrick Ngo, a biomedical engineering junior, echoed Garrison’s sentiments.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to see other people who shared the same mindset and … who were so dedicated,” Ngo said. “It was a lot easier to make friends with (people) on campus because we’re held together by this common game.”
Though the game skyrocketed to immense popularity, “Pokemon Go” has its fair share of bad press. According to CNN, the game led a Wyoming teen to discover a corpse in a river last week. Armed robbers in Missouri used the game to lure victims. And, more commonly, players are distracted by the game when crossing roads, risking accidents and injury, according to a recent report by the New York Daily News.
Ngo said the game exacerbates a problem already common amongst college students.
“It has definitely affected my sleep cycle,” he said.
In spite of the potential downsides, students still commend the positive aspects of the game.
“People are always looking for an excuse to get out and do something,” Garrison said. “At UTD, with the dorms and student housing, it’s pretty easy to get out and walk around all the Pokestops. I don’t really see any negatives unless people aren’t being smart or aware of their surroundings.”
Suura agreed, noting that the release of “Pokemon Go” was a rebirth of sorts.
“For people our age, Pokemon was something we grew up (with),” he said. “It’s an adventure — something really novel — that draws people in.”