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Pokémon hunters return to the hood to ‘catch em’ all’

Last Updated : 08 June 2022, 02:45 IST

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Pokémon hunters of Bengaluru are out and about again, playing the popular mobile game to find, capture and battle virtual pocket monsters on streets and in cafes and parks.

The community says it was on a hiatus because of the pandemic restrictions and not because the game had lost its craze. They have congregated for two meetups and a fan engagement event since April.

To jog your memory, US-based Niantic launched ‘Pokémon Go’ in July 2016. The game juxtaposes mysterious creatures from the Japanese anime ‘Pokémon’ into the real world using augmented reality and GPS co-ordinates. The players, called trainers, must go outdoors to spot and catch Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander and other creatures, and train them for battles.

Even before its official release, thousands of Indian youth managed to play it in major cities — Bengaluru was the most active, we learnt.

Perks: Friends, fun, fitness

In its second coming, the Pokémon Go Bengaluru (PoGoBlr) community still largely consists of the early players in their 20s although the recent outings did throw up a few new and younger faces, busting the fear that the player-base is stagnating. The community was once ubiquitous in Bengaluru and the sight of people walking with their heads down and eyes fixed on the phone was commonplace. But now, a little over a thousand active players remain. Areas like MG Road, Whitefield, Indiranagar and JP Nagar, and some colleges and offices, have WhatsApp and Discord groups, about 20-25 of them.

Nostalgia is a major draw. Vaani Kaur, who works as a solutions engineer, says, “I was 10 when I started playing Pokémon on the console. Later, the show kept expanding its immersive universe. The mix of nostalgia and fantasy does it for me.” Going outdoors and meeting fellow players come easily to the extrovert she is, she admits.

The game has taken her to lesser-known parks and eateries in Bengaluru. “I have bought a day bus pass so I could travel to Bellandur and Marathahalli (to go Pokémon hunting),” says the 29-year-old who stays near Indiranagar.

Many have found friends on these hunts. Jabez M M, a 28-year-old MBA student and moderator of a few Pokémon groups in south Bengaluru, says, “I tried pandemic features like remote raids but the real fun is to go out, form teams and celebrate small wins. I am glad we are able to do that now.”

The game has evolved a lot over time and is fostering in-person interaction, PVP (player versus player) battles and team-building more than before, confirms one of the co-admins of PoGoBlr. He is a 23-year-old research scholar who prefers to be called by his ‘in-game name’, Kayne98.

Being part of a community has its unexpected rewards. As IT engineer Edmund Motha shares, “At a recent meetup on MG Road, a fellow gamer informed me he has an opening in his company and asked me to forward my resume.” Edmund loves walking around, so the game is a good fit.

The renewed vigour is inspiring players to reinstall the game that they had removed since the Covid broke out, such as software engineer Shreyas Hebbar. The 26-year-old now walks 9 km to his office and back to tame Pokémon on the go instead of taking a cab or bus.

Concerns

In the initial years, instances of Pokémon trainers walking carelessly and trespassing properties had surfaced globally. The community acknowledges the concerns and advises safe and responsible play.

They have their own concerns. Vaani Kaur rues the lack of good footpaths, which get further usurped by autos and scooters, as also the dearth of parks that allow leisurely activities. Caretakers also shoo the youngsters away when they huddle up near temples and lakes to play.

The participation of women also lingers low at 5-10%.

To join the community, follow PoGoBlr on Twitter and Instagram.

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Published 07 June 2022, 17:24 IST

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