Pokémon Go craze sweeps USM campus


USM students not immune to “Pokémon Go” craze

With a globally reaching platform and interactive map, students of The University of Southern Mississippi can participate on campus in a global phenomenon.

On July 6, The Pokémon Company published Pokémon Go for iPhone and Android.
The app integrates augmented reality that simulates a real-world experience of catching Pokémon and has reached massive popularity.

According to app analytics company Sensor Tower’s predictive model of the App Store and Google Play, users have downloaded the game more than 7.5 million times. In the U.S. alone, the app has accumulated more than $1.6 million per day, although that estimate reflects iOS earnings only.

Students at USM are not immune to the app’s popularity.

Junior international studies major Charles Brown makes time to play in spite of his full-time work and class schedule.

“There were tons of local players during the summer, so I imagine there will be probably at least double that number [when classes start],” Brown said. “It gets pretty monotonous once you’ve caught most of the available Pokémon. Taking over gyms can get boring too. But finding or hatching that one rare Pokémon that’s been eluding you makes it all worth it. There’s no telling how many more [players will join] when the second generation of Pokémon are released.”

Junior psychology major Abby Hill said she is not a huge fan of the app, but she enjoys playing the game on campus alongside her boyfriend.

“I’ve never been into Pokémon – even as a child – but my boyfriend was the biggest fan,” she said. “I went with him to try out the app when it first came out. We rode our bikes to literally every spot on campus that had something.”

Brown and Hill said they found the heaviest traffic by the fountain at the center of campus, where they encountered several other players.

“Everyone was friendly,” Hill said. “We didn’t make any friends, per se, just the expected yell across the courtyard to ask if a ‘so and so’ is over there.”

“There are three intersecting Pokéstops [at the fountain], so players just sit there and rake in [rewards],” Brown said. “We just talk a bit – compare what we’ve caught, what level and team we are. Now everytime I see one of them, there’s always a small bit of acknowledgment or small bit of catching up and talking about the game.”

The Pokémon Company is set to release Pokémon Go Plus, a wearable wrist device that alerts players of nearby Pokémon by flashing and vibrating, Sept. 30.

The device aims to make it easier to play without constantly staring at a smartphone screen, which has been cited as the cause of several recent mishaps related to the app.

According to the Auburn Citizen, a driver at Auburn University was injured in early July after running off the road and striking a tree while playing and driving. Multiple armed robbery suspects targeted players inattentive of their surroundings in Missouri, according to The Verge. According to Daily Mail, two men in California fell from a cliff after crossing into a fenced-off area in order to catch Pokémon.

“I think people just need to realize this is a game,” Sgt. Rich Eaton of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not worth your life. No game is worth your life.”

In spite of these and other similar incidents, Mobilocity Principal Analyst J. Gerry Purdy believes the number of players will likely continue to grow.

“Perhaps [the game is just a fad], but it’s likely to draw in young kids and teenagers for a long time, especially if Niantic adds new features to users interested[in the app],” Purdy said in a recent opinion piece for RCR Wireless.

Purdy believes the game’s true importance lies in its AR integration.

“AR was a niche area in smartphones until the release of Pokémon Go,” he said. “The most important thing that the Pokémon game has done is to get people to accept augmented reality as part of their normal use of a smartphone. As a result . . . you’ll soon see augmented reality show up in a number of different places, especially business apps.”