'Pokemon Go': West Linn
Local businesses, schools and parks see the wildly popular 'Pokemon Go' cellphone game as a way to draw in new visitors
West Linn Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester was making his rounds across town recently when he came upon an unusual sight.
An adolescent was walking down the street with his phone held in front of his face and proceeeded to smash straight into a light pole. Right away, Worcester knew what had happened.
Like so many others across the globe, this particular person must have been playing Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go has exploded onto the mobile gaming scene since its debut more than two weeks ago, and its had a noticeable impact for City staff and local businesses in the area.
Thats because unlike other cellphone games, Pokemon Go encourages players to go outside and explore in order to play and that has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting West Linns parks and public institutions.
People are wandering all over the place, Worcester said. Its kind of fun to watch. Apparently theres a bunch at our office (City Hall) as well.
We noticed it last weekend, just in the fact that there were more people on campus than usual, and that there were so many people here at one particular time, says Karen Pederson, communications manager at Marylhurst University. People were starting to get curious, and probably it was Tuesday or Wednesday when we made the connection Oh, theyre here with their devices, with their apps running and capturing Pokemon.
The game is incredibly popular among children and teenagers, but it also has a large following among older players who grew up during the initial Pokemon craze in the late 1990s and have now found themselves drawn back into the quest to catch em all.
For many local businesses, that creates a unique opportunity to use the game as a way to draw in new visitors.
Weve directed our employees to learn how to play, and theyve eagerly jumped into the fray, says Andrew Edwards, executive director at the Lakewood Center for the Arts.
In the original Pokemon video games, players explored virtual worlds to search for new additions to their collection of fictional creatures, but Pokemon Go applies the concept to the real world. The game works like Google Maps, using GPS to display a map of the players real-world surroundings; players have to walk around in real life to move their character avatar on the game map.
In a way its almost like geocaching, Worcester said. Thats kind of how were looking at it. It would be cool if people picked up a (West Linn Summer Passport) while theyre doing this. Theres a bit of redudancy there.
Pokemon players are drawn to specific places because the creatures in the game pop up in different environments depending on their species.
Theres a bunch in Willamette Park, a couple in Hammerle, Worcester said.
The creatures pop up at random, but many real-world points of interest such as public sculptures, historical markers and government buildings also appear on the game map as Pokestops that players can visit in order to get new items so any place with lots of public art tends to be a prime destination. The Lakewood Center in Lake Oswego is one such place, which is why its staff have been using social media to encourage people to visit.
Were one of the landmarks, says Edwards, so we said, If youre here, catch your Pokemon and then come in and take a look at the art, maybe see some of what were offering for plays. Our point was to try to familiarize ourselves with a different demographic that may or may not know we were here.
Other downtown Lake Oswego businesses have shown similar interest. During its opening-day celebration last week, the new 365 by Whole Foods Market posted screenshots from the game on its Facebook page, urging players to visit the store and a Pokestop nearby.
Marylhursts campus also features several Pokestops, and the schools staff sees that as a way to bring in more visitors. In fact, the university added a large sign near the entrance for visiting players.
We did some communication, says Pederson, both signage on our campus and posting on Facebook, welcoming the Pokemon Go players to our campus and letting them know we welcome them anytime during our campus open hours.
The caveat about open hours is important, because the game has raised security concerns for police departments throughout the country and there have been reports of players being robbed. The game does not broadcast players locations, but players can use lure items to create temporary targets where a higher-than-average number of Pokemon will appear, which in turn will draw nearby players to the spot.
However, West Linn Police Sergeant Dave Kempas said few issues have arisen thus far.
I am not aware of any issues, other than I am seeing a few more people out on foot at night on their phones, Kempas said.
More than anything, its obvious what theyre playing, Worcester said. So you just need to be careful while youre driving, because theyre not looking.
Pederson says the security issue was discussed among the staff at Marylhurst, but the consensus was that players are welcome on the campus as long as they visit during daylight hours. Players seeking nocturnal Pokemon like Ghastly or Zubat will have to look elsewhere.
As long as people are here during daylight hours when we have security on our campus, then this is a very safe place to play and were thrilled that people are coming onto our campus, says Pederson. Even if theyre not here to take classes or go to one of our summer concerts any reason that theyre coming onto our campus, were thrilled.
Reporter Patrick Malee contributed to this story.