Friday, July 12, 2024

New Pokémon app turns Williamsburg into virtual playground

A wild Venonat appears in front of Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg. This image was captured directly from Pokemon GO; the app accesses the user's cellphone camera and superimposes a Pokemon animation over the user's surroundings. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)
« of 6 »

A war is raging in the Revolutionary City, but it’s not the one you’re thinking.

Atop the Governor’s Palace sits a creature levitating and spewing toxic gas. A critter covered in thick blue vines hops outside Bruton Parish Church. And a fanged specter lurks in the backyard of a home where visitors gather for Colonial Williamsburg’s Ghost Walk.

While this may sound fantastical, a new phone application is bringing the fictional world of Pokémon to life, blurring the virtual and physical worlds through augmented reality.

Pokémon GO is an app for iOS and Android devices. People who download the app can discover creatures of all shapes and sizes while walking anywhere in the world. Users can capture Pokémon and challenge other players to battles at designated locations called “gyms.”

Ty Hodges catches a a Venonat at the Governor’s Palace July 7, 2016. (Kirsten Petersen/WYDaily)
Ty Hodges catches a Venonat at the Governor’s Palace July 7, 2016. (Kirsten Petersen/WYDaily)

The app is free, but does allow users to purchase items within the game. Many items can be obtained for free by visiting landmarks identified as PokéStops.

There are a multitude of PokéStops situated near historic buildings on Duke of Gloucester Street. Unassuming locations such as DoG Street Pub and Bruton Parish Church are teeming with virtual creatures waiting to be caught. Local “gyms” include the Governor’s Palace and St. George Tucker House.

The Pokémon franchise launched in Japan in 1996 with two games for the handheld Nintendo Game Boy. Since then, the game has spurred a global sensation, with players worldwide working to capture fictional creatures called Pokémon — and testing each creature’s abilities in battle.

WYDaily’s resident Pokémon Trainer, Ty Hodges, took to DoG Street Thursday morning to catch critters and claim goods from PokéStops.

Highlights from the Poké-haul included an Exeggcute near Merchants Square, a Tangela outside Bruton Parish Church and a Venonat at the Governor’s Palace. But several Pokémon disappeared before Hodges could catch them, including an Eevee, which may have been scared off by the boom of a nearby cannon.

Visits to PokéStops, which included the Bruton Parish Shop, George Wythe House, and the Magazine and Guard House, were rewarded with countless Pokéballs and two eggs, which will eventually hatch into new Pokémon.

Hodges’ journey was cut short when overloaded servers stalled the app. Having only launched Wednesday night, the app is still prone to glitches. It is already the most popular and highest grossing on the Apple App Store, while downloads to Android devices have reached 100,000.

Prospective Pokémon masters have been trying to “catch ‘em all” at other Williamsburg spots, including Busch Gardens and Paul’s Deli.

Ty Hodges catches a Pokemon on Duke of Gloucester Street July 7, 2016. (Kirsten Petersen/ WYDaily)
Ty Hodges catches a Pokemon on Duke of Gloucester Street July 7, 2016. (Kirsten Petersen/ WYDaily)

Williamsburg resident Brett Smith, who was tossing Pokéballs at a Poliwag while waiting for his order at Paul’s, said he had spent part of his day exploring his neighborhood to find Pokémon to capture.

While Smith said he doesn’t expect he’ll become more active as result of downloading the app, he thinks others may use it as a way to explore their surroundings.

“I think it could encourage people to go out and definitely walk around a little bit more,” Smith said. “When they’re playing the game, they’ll see a little bit more of the sights, so that’s a good thing.”

Related Articles