2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Pokemon Go after dark at the University of Calgary

By Melanie Woods, July 19 2016 —

As I round a corner into the Earth Science building just after 11:00 p.m., my phone buzzes. I quickly claim the Pidgey that appears on my screen — a common find at the University of Calgary — with a well-flicked Pokeball and store it away in my Pokedex.

I look up from my screen and see at least a dozen fellow Pokemon trainers clustered near a staircase, all engrossed in the game. They nod in acknowledgement as I join the group and plug my phone into an outlet to conserve battery life. After a few minutes of catching Rattatas, evolving Spearows and collecting Pokeballs, someone gets up.

“Guys, there’s a lure module by ICT,” they say with excitement.

Immediately, the whole group starts towards ICT. When we arrive at the lure module — a marker placed by a user to attract Pokemon to a certain spot — another group of players is already there. After exchanging greetings, we make small talk and compare our respective Pokemon.

I have lived on campus for three and a half years and this is the busiest I’ve seen the U of C this late on a night that isn’t Thursden. We aren’t drinking or dancing the night away — we’re all there to catch Pokemon.

If phrases like “Pidgey,” “Pokestop” and “lure module” sound foreign to you, they’re all part of Pokemon Go, Nintendo’s latest nostalgia-inducing expansion to the Pokemon franchise.

Pokemon Go is a mobile app that uses Google Maps and augmented reality to allow users to catch and collect virtual Pokemon superimposed on real world locations. Players can travel to landmarks marked with Pokestops and refill on Pokeballs and other items, as well as battle each other at locations marked as gyms. ENT_pokemongopeople_melwoods

The game is massively successful, already ranking as the most popular mobile game in American history with over 21 million daily users. While the app was only released in Canada on July 17, millions of Canadian users have downloaded the American version since July 6.

These early players have found the U of C to be prime Pokemon-hunting ground, with dozens of Pokestops and five gyms on campus — as well as campus-wide wi-fi and power outlets.

Kshitij Vasudevan is a recent U of C computer science grad, but regularly returns to campus just to play the game.

“I took a chance and came down. To my delight, it was just riddled with Pokestops,” Vasudevan says. “And a lot of people playing obviously, because it’s the generation that grew up with Pokemon.”

Vasudevan says one of the best parts of the game is the real life experience of playing it.

“Everyone’s really excited. It’s like a scavenger hunt and people tend to be with their friends. You see groups of between two to six just kind of walking around playing Marco Polo — when they see a Pokemon nearby they all spread out to try and find it,” Vasudevan says. “It’s generally a really fun energy.”

After spending her day in a microbiology lab, U of C biology student Cassandra Culham often returns to campus at night to play the game.

“We’re not here every night, but most nights. We skipped a few nights because we were out [Pokemon hunting] until 3:00 a.m. on Saturday night,” Culham says. “I’ve probably met more people playing Pokemon Go here than in my entire degree.”

IMG_1928Culham was joking, but after a few nights of playing Pokemon Go on campus myself, I see the appeal. In between learning where to catch a Vulpix and chasing down a Hypno, I reconnected with a friend from my first-year residence floor and met a dozen new people. When I returned to hunt Pokemon on subsequent nights, I exchanged friendly waves with familiar faces.

Despite the influx of late-night players on campus, U of C chief of Campus Security Brian Sembo says there haven’t been any security problems.

“Indeed we are aware of this game. Although we are monitoring the situation for issues, so far to date none have been reported,” he says.

The late-night Pokemon trainers I meet have mastered the U of C scene. Many devised walking routes to maximize passing as many Pokestops as possible, while others memorized which doors to which buildings remain unlocked after certain times.

Vasudevan says that, while the Pokemon hunt can get heated, it’s most important to look out for fellow trainers.

“Be nice to people. Everyone’s out there having fun,” he says. ”We’re all people enjoying this game. Just help everyone out and have a good time — oh, and don’t drive and Pokemon.”

As I catch yet another Pidgey near the ICT lure, I hear someone shout from down the hall.

“There’s an Eevee here!” the distant voice says.

Immediately my group is off again — we gotta catch em’ all.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet