Pokemon Go Continues Fostering Connections at CMU

Story and photos by Justin Cooper

Pokemon Go players flowed through the streets and paths of Central Michigan University to participate in Community Day, a monthly event where the rules of the game are modified and special Pokemon are offered like candy.

Clusters of people roamed around, huddled over their phone screens playing the game, which tasks players with joining one of three teams (Mystic, Instinct and Valor) and flicking PokeBalls up at digital creatures to capture them. People came together, discussed their progress and forged new connections.

When the game first emerged in the summer of 2016, seeing “Pokemon trainers”  was a common occurrence on CMU’s campus. Since then, only a small but dedicated community has remained.

Martin Bennett, a junior on Team Mystic, downloaded Pokemon Go the first night it was out in the United States, July 6, 2016.

“I took a break a few months ago and started back when I got here,” Bennett said. “There were a lot more people playing here than in my hometown, and there are way more PokeStops.”

PokeStops, deposits of resources you can collect if you’re physically close enough to them, can be crucial to playing the game. Typically they are placed near landmarks, notable buildings and memorials. On campus, several residence halls have PokeStops in their range, and the rest are easy to catch on walks to class.

A screenshot of a Pokemon Gym available on the campus of Central Michigan University.

“[Playing Pokemon Go is] way better here,” said Zack Camilleri, a Team Valor sophomore from East Lansing. “At home I would have to walk a couple miles to the nearest PokeStop.”

With such a dense cluster of PokeStops and Gyms, which are spots that can reap you material rewards if your Pokemon can defeat the players who held it previously, CMU’s campus is a much more natural place to play than some students’ hometowns.

Carl Jacobs, sophomore, catches Pokemon near the library during Sunday’s Community Day.

The dedicated Pokemon Go players are even inspiring new players to explore the virtual world for the first time. Hallie Wolf, a Team Mystic junior, began playing only a month ago when Camilleri, Bennett and others introduced her to it.

So far, Wolf has been able to find a slice of what the game was once like when the amount of players was far more vast.

“I am still learning a lot about Pokemon and how to play, but I’ve had a ton of fun wandering with my friends and trying out raids,” Wolf said.

Raids, which are challenging opportunities to catch powerful Pokemon, frequently draw Wolf and her regular group to Troutman Hall, another residence hall in the Towers complex where they live.

Such easy access to Gyms, Raids and PokeStops is usually hard to find in the suburbs, but on campus, it’s the norm.

A wild Pokemon a player encounters while walking around campus.

Alexander Kribs, a Team Instinct junior, played Pokemon Go when it first came out, but took a nearly two-year break before a trip to New York brought him back.

“It was the first week of August,” Kribs said. “Pokemon was super popular in NY, and there were PokeStops everywhere.”

Now Kribs continues to play all the time, even during class.

Shannon West, sophomore, and Anthony Stout, senior, stop by a light post to catch Pokemon during Community Day.

Because Pokemon Go lacks any in-game communication features, the most common way new players meet is by happening upon them in the real world while playing the game.

However, since the numbers of people doing that on a daily basis have dwindled since the game’s initial release, players have flocked to TheSilphRoad.com, a website featuring many tools for the game, including a map you can use to find Discord and Telegram channels for your local community.

In the Mt. Pleasant Pokemon Go Discord channel, which has over 650 members, players organize Raid groups, call out where they find rare Pokemon, and even coordinated where to meet during Community Day.

Though it reached its peak within public consciousness a long time ago, Pokemon Go continues to be a factor in many people’s lives.

“Going to Raids, you always meet someone new,” said Andrew Tiffany, a Team Instinct sophomore who is a high school friend of Camilleri.

Tiffany and Camilleri met Kribs, Wolf and Bennett through their living arrangements in Kulhavi Hall, and now they regularly go out together to catch Pokemon.

It may be surprising, but if you’re looking to create some new connections on campus, the Pokemon Go community at CMU is a great place to start.