Pokémon GO Invades Brampton

Anthony Crane and Michael Quarry-Chow stand outside PAMA, a popular Pokéstop.

By now you must have heard that Pokémon have invaded the Earth and everyone is looking for them. In Brampton, the craze has fully caught on. Sidewalks, streets, parks and just about everywhere you look, people are out, heads bent and intently checking their devices to find the next goal in the game, usually at locations called “Pokéstops”.

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A player displays their latest Pokémon prize.

This isn’t the old version of the wildly popular card game from the 2000’s. Pokémon GO doesn’t involve collecting and trading cards. Instead, using Android or iOS smartphones, a user must navigate in real time using maps as they walk. Using GPS, the game experience mimics the real world and presents players with elements located at places of interest, including the Pokémon themselves.

The result is that normally empty streets are filled with players walking about as they engage the game. The activity goes on all day and late into the night. Even  at 1 a.m., the usually deserted Downtown Brampton is about as busy as during lunch hour. Over at Gage Park where the game shows several “Pokéstops”, over a hundred players are milling about.

Jipreet Kaur and friend Hunter Borges are part of the enthusiastic crowd. “We’re hunting Pokémon, this is a popular spot”, says Kaur. Borges justifies the late-night activity saying, “I think it’s good. It’s better than us sitting and doing nothing. It gives us a reason to interact with other people.”

It is clear that Pokémon GO has achieved a great deal of good, especially in Downtown Brampton, and in other places around the globe where the game has been released. People are out and having fun. One downside to the game has been safety, or lack of it. Authorities have been dealing with numerous situations where the game has led to accidents because of its distracted players. In Brampton, Peel Regional Police tweeted in response to the phenomena: “Always take care and be aware when crossing the street. #BeSafe #PayAttention”.

Pokémon GO has achieved in a small but significant way the dream of city planners everywhere. The game engages people (mostly young people) and utilizes our public spaces in the fullest way possible. Pokémon GO has transformed Brampton into the largest playground our residents have ever seen. It is exciting to see, even if it’s just a mobile game. While the game may just be a passing fad, hopefully the inventors of the game will find new ways to keep it interesting as players continue to discover our city.

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Playing Pokémon GO in Gage Park at 1 AM.

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