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Murray Journal

Pokémon Go Catches Humans at Murray Park

Aug 25, 2016 04:48PM ● By Travis Barton

To commemorate the Pokémon Go event at Murray Park, participants dressed up as characters from the popular show and game. –Travis Barton

As Pokémon Go continues to sweep the globe, it officially conquered Murray Park.
Pokémon Go players flooded Murray Park on July 24 pioneering the new game that has dominated conversations for weeks. What started as a Facebook invite event turned into the park’s second most popular day of the year.
“It’s really cool to be able to see this,” Jaxyn Henderson, who was selling Pokémon T-shirts at the event, said.
More than 1,000 people came to hang out with their friends, meet new people, and most importantly, catch Pokémon.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game where you can catch Pokémon characters using a phone’s GPS. Characters and the “pokeballs” used to catch them are found everywhere from playgrounds and churches to parks and hospitals requiring users to physically move around to catch them.
The game was released on July 6 by Niantic, Inc., swiftly becoming one of the most downloaded apps of all time. Within three weeks of its arrival, an event of 1,000 people was already taking place at Murray Park because of it.

“People have been waiting for a game like this for a long time, specifically a Pokémon-themed one,” Dan Johnson, a graphic designer, said.

Johnson, his brother Patrick, and Meghan Bradham were at the event selling decals after having so much success at a similar event at Sugar House Park. Dan said it’s cool being a part of something so big.

“Everybody’s been playing this in their basement for the last 25 to 30 years not telling anyone they play Pokémon, now everybody is,” Dan said.

With the extravaganza in Murray Park happening the same weekend as the famous Comic Convention in San Diego, Patrick said it was appropriate having a large fandom congregate to the park. A fandom, he added, that both his mother and 5-year-old son are involved in.

“It’s all inclusive, there are not a lot of fandoms that bring everybody—everybody is out doing it and we’re all out here together,” said Patrick.

“It’s cool. It’s not just nerds playing, there are like, preppy kids as well,” Greg Leskins said at the event sporting his Pikachu shirt.

The game has brought a social component with it not normally associated with a digital game.
Bradham, a preschool teacher, said the three of them aren’t very social people but playing the game has changed that.

“It’s crazy how many people you meet, especially for us because we’re not like super social people…and suddenly you’re talking [to people and] making friends,” Bradham said.
Samantha Lemon, who was selling T-shirts with Henderson, said it’s interesting psychologically how it brings people together.

“It brings people outside…I talk to random people because we’re both playing it. It’s a cool sense of community that you have going on,” Lemon said.  

Amy Wyman and Ben Segee moved to Murray two years ago from Maine and said the game has helped them meet new people and get to know their area better.

“We didn’t even know there was a park here and we live like two blocks away,” Wyman said. “Not only is there a park here, but it’s a nice park.”

Segee said the game naturally creates a connection between you and complete strangers by being in the same place playing the same game.

“It’s a game that’s encouraging you to go out, exercise, explore the world and be a bit social in a relatively safe way,” Segee said.

The physical aspect has had an effect on users as well.

“It’s five minutes or you realize you’ve been wandering around for three hours, you’ve put 10 miles behind you and I got to get a new belt now,” said Patrick, an office administrator and graphic designer.

All around the table where Patrick was selling Pokémon decals were hundreds of people individually participating in a park-wide event.

Attendees dressed up as characters from the Pokémon television show, climbed on top of a park monument holding up a team banner and even one police officer drove through the park playing the Pokémon theme song over the loudspeaker.

Police officers, who were at the park watching over the event, said it was the biggest event they’d seen at the park besides the Independence Day celebrations.

While around the world reports have filtered in bringing public concern about the game, Murray Police Officers said they had only received calls regarding suspicious vehicles parked while its occupant searched for a Pokémon or people breaking park curfews at places such as Wheeler Farm.

“When the sun goes down, go inside and count your Pokémon, just to be safe,” Dan said. “Technology is a power, [we] still got to be careful with it.”

With its unprecedented global popularity, can the game maintain its grip on the worldwide consciousness or fade away taking its place with the Harlem Shake and Flappy Bird as temporary phenomena?

“I think it’ll definitely taper off at some point but I don’t think it’ll completely burn out,” Wyman said pointing out that Pokémon still sells well every year.

“It’s made a solid enough impact that it will remain to be somewhat popular,” Segee said.
It’s an impact, Henderson said, that he’s curious to see what comes next.

“It makes me wonder, what can we [society] actually achieve,” Henderson said.