Since launching in Canada on July 17, Pokémon Go seems to have taken over Ottawa. Countless people have been roaming the city, their eyes glued to their smartphones, hoping to “catch ‘em all.”
Pokémon Go is a mobile app that’s rooted in augmented reality, a technology that superimposes computer-generated images into the real world, and seeks to get users to travel to real-world locations in the hopes of finding Pokémon, with the goal of evolving them and leveling them up to make them as strong as possible. The app is based on the video game and animated TV series, Pokémon that came out 20 years ago and took the millennial world by storm.
While Pokémon randomly spawn throughout the city, major landmarks of varying significance, like parks, transit stations and statues, have become Poké Stops and Pokémon Gyms, where users of the app can pick up items and battle other “Pokémon trainers.”
As a result of this phenomenon, you may have noticed an influx of young people around various synagogues and community institutions. But, don’t get too excited, they are most likely just out to capture Pokémon. For example, Congregation Machzikei Hadas and Congregation Kehillat Beth Israel are Poké Stops and the statue outside the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) serves as a gym.
How are these institutions reacting to the fad? Aside from some initial confusion as to why so many strangers were loitering outside their buildings, there has been very little impact, said Mory Macleod, office manager at Congregation Machzikei Hadas.
Patrice Berdowski, SJCC membership director, echoed Macleod’s sentiments and added she liked the thought of so many people coming to the SJCC – but that it was also a hassle for security during the app’s peak days.
As Pokémon can spawn literally anywhere and major landmarks tend to be either Poké Stops or gyms, this has resulted in the widespread use of the app at inappropriate places. Yad Vashem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum have both established policies banning the use of the app on their premises after spotting many visitors playing Pokémon Go on their grounds.
Ottawa Jewish community member Noam Stulberg, a fourth year student of cognitive science at York University, is an avid Pokémon Go player and says he was drawn to it both for nostalgic and fitness reasons.
“As I was a massive fan of Pokémon in my childhood, it was a logical step for me to try out Pokémon Go as soon as I could get my hands on it,” he said. “If I’m planning on going for a walk, I turn the game on and play while I’m walking. I’ve always been an active guy, but, especially when the game first came out, it got me out of the house even more. It’s a great companion to a nice bike ride.”
With more than 100 million downloads worldwide, the Pokémon Go fad probably won’t end any time soon.