Pokémon GO map of Stevenson Park.

Great outdoors being enjoyed by Pokemon players in Friendswood

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The latest game, Pokémon GO is getting people off their couches and outdoors exploring and in Friendswood, residents all over town seem to be on the virtual scavenger hunt.

A big hotspot in town is Stevenson Park. Players of all ages are continually moving, connecting with other players, and getting exercise while they compete. The large park offers many opportunities in the new augmented reality game. But the gamers will be moving around and not only are they walking in the park but also in neighborhoods, and at local city buildings and businesses.

Participants are easy to spot. Using their phones, they walk slowly or stand in place a few minutes and then are moving again. They can be seen in groups or alone at such area locations as the Friendswood Library, Friends Church, the church cemetery, Marie Workman Center for Heritage Gardeners, Old City Park, and the Living Tree with its marker on Spreading Oaks.

Area restaurants are picking up on the fad and advertising as a Pokéstop, if granted that site from the media franchise. Friendswood Heritage Gardeners on their website invites visitors to get Pokémon GO items at their clubhouse as well as several area buildings nearby on Spreading Oaks.

It is advantageous for gamers to actually walk or run to chart distances so many are using neighborhoods and park areas for pathways. Parents have reported children wanting for the first time to get out and walk neighborhoods and other areas of town as part of the game.

For those not interested in walking, driving very slowly will allow gamers to capture Pokémon as well as get items at set locations such as parks, businesses, even fire hydrants. PSAs are already circulating warning of hazards of driving and playing.

The Pokémon media franchise was created in 1995, and is centered on fictional creatures called “Pokémon,” with humans known as Pokémon Trainers catching and training the Pokémon to battle each other for sport.

Pokémon GO is a multiplayer online mobile game that is location-based with augmented reality, and basically free to play. It’s still a Pokémon game, and has basically the same principles as every other Pokémon from the past 20 years.

The new Pokémon GO game was released the first week of July 2016 and it has taken off all over the U.S. Created by two men, one from Nintendo and the other from The Pokémon Company as an April Fools’ Day collaboration with Google, called Pokémon Challenge, the game is a version of Niantic’s Ingress, an earlier augmented reality game. In fact, locations used in Pokémon GO were originally set by Ingress and are used in the new game.

Among the new game’s visual designers is one who had previously worked at Google and created the logo of Gmail.

Players look for creatures, capture them, train and battle with them and look for items they can pick up that will assist in the training and battles. What’s different than other games is that it uses the real world in the game experience.

The game uses a cell phone’s GPS sensors to track where the player is, offering a stylized Google map as the primary game board. The player’s character moves in the game as the player walks around in real life, and events and objects, known as PokéStops, are associated with specific locations in the physical world.

In order to interact with what is offered at the site, a player must actually walk to a particular place. The game world is seen through a phone’s display, like a viewfinder and being a mixed reality with game objects makes the experience augmented reality.

There are over 721 Pokémon characters with 18 types in 2016, with approximately 151 in Pokémon GO Rare ones vary in different locations around the country. Vacations this summer in other parts of the state or nation will offer Pokémon GO players some variety and new fun explorations as they travel.

“In Florida recently I found some rare Pokémon I haven’t seen in Friendswood. I would be walking by piers and tourist sites and they would appear,” Friendswood teen Lane Alksne-Liles said. “It was fun to see what I could find on vacation. But I looked forward to getting home and going on some walks around town.”

Gamers can purchase items through the Pokémon store if they choose but the same items can be captured freely if they pursue it.

The 20th anniversary of Pokémon has delivered a summer hit and one in which family members of all ages can physically enjoy.

Story by Karolyn Gephart