Pokémon Go Players Take Their Hunt to the Streets of New York


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Nintendo’s new gaming app, Pokémon Go, encourages players to seek out and capture Pokémon in public spaces. During their lunch break, Anna Shelkin, 22, left, and Rachel Ward, 26, searched for virtual creatures along Seventh Avenue.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Digletts are burrowing in Central Park, a Zubat is flying around the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the rare Mewtwo has reportedly been sighted in Times Square.

On nearly every New York City sidewalk, an increasing number of people have been chasing the virtual creatures since Pokémon Go came out last week. Nintendo’s wildly popular augmented reality game sends players out into the real world to catch Pokémon with their smartphones. When one appears on the screen, the user or trainer throws virtual Poké Balls at it until it is captured.

Shane Green, 18, of Queens, was in Times Square on Monday with friends scanning for exotic Pokémon. He has not taken possession of the rarer Pokémon yet, but did come across dozens of other gamers wandering the city.

“I was like, ‘You’re playing too?’” he said. “And then we’d walk around and help each other out.”

His friend, Nicholas Emmons, 18, contemplated the meaning of the game. “It brings me back to my childhood,” he said. “I used to always just stay in my room and play Pokémon.”

At the Nintendo store in Rockefeller Center, Jane Krukosky, 12, who called herself a Pokémon fanatic, was playing the game with her stepfather, Tim Cann, 54. Jane borrowed her mother’s phone for the friendly competition.

Mr. Cann was winning with 82 captured Pokémon to Jane’s 47.

In their hometown, Newark, Del., Mr. Cann said, a trainer might find 25 Pokémon. In Manhattan, they spotted one every block, he said. There are 250 Pokémon in the game.

Though not a trainer, Jane’s mother, Sara Duckett, especially loves one of the rules of the game. It requires users to walk around to achieve certain rewards and uses a pedometer to ensure compliance.

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Virtual animals as seen from a smartphone while using Nintendo’s Pokémon Go app around Manhattan. From left, a Doduo appears in a bike lane by Madison Square Park, a Rattata appears by some pigeons in Times Square and an Eavee appears by a couple taking wedding photographs under Bethesda Terrace in Central Park.

Credit
Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

“She doesn’t realize she’s getting so much exercise,” Mr. Cann said. “She’s just playing Pokémon.”

Whether exercising or gaming, players need to know where they are. When a trainer opens the Pokémon Go app a warning appears: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.”

With eyes glued to the screen while searching for Pokémon, it could be easy to cross a street without looking both ways. In a statement, the New York Police Department urged “everyone to be aware of their surroundings at all times, particularly when using any hand-held electronic device.”

The 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side of Manhattan took to Twitter: “Don’t let us catch you catching #Pokemon while driving, you can’t do both!”

Trainers can also battle their Pokémon against other players at gyms, a term for locations like the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the designated sites for virtual fights.

The World Trade Center is also deemed a gym, and the Sept. 11 memorial is teeming with Pokémon.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the game itself,” Chris Desciora, a security guard at the memorial, said. “But you know, maybe the game’s services could consider where they are placing the Pokémon or whatever. You should come here to see everything and to respect the memorial not just to catch a Pokémon.”

But he said he had not seen as many Pokémon trainers wielding phones as he had expected. “It hasn’t caused any trouble,” he said.

In Central Park, the Manhattan residents Derek Arfman, 27, and Jared Malamud, 32, were on their way to capture a Pokémon. They had just passed five others who were playing the game, they said.

Some stops in the game had even been educational, they said. Sculptures and fountains were places where players could pick up extra Poké Balls.

“I was making fun of all of my friends for playing,” Mr. Malamud said. “I apologize for my hypocritical comments.”

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