By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
We’ve all seen them – dozens of people sitting or standing around the fountain across from Primera Casa staring down at their smartphones for hours on end. The zombie-like herd is playing Pokémon Go, a new augmented reality game based on the 1990s card game and video games that has taken the world by storm.
The game integrates the real world with the virtual world it created using geolocation technology to offer a unique gaming experience that has attracted more than 25 million users in the United States at its peak on July 14. FIU, with approximately 80 PokéStops to help users stockpile game supplies and five gyms at MMC, has become one of the more popular spots to play the game in Miami.
The Miami New Times named the fountain, with four PokéStops located around it in close proximity, as one of the ten best places to play Pokémon Go in the city. Even the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail wrote an article about students overrunning campus in search of rare Pokémon characters like Omanyte and Squirtle.
Almost every evening since the game launched in the United States on July 6, hundreds of members of the local community converge on MMC to walk around and catch Pokémon and battle for control of the campus’s Pokémon gyms.
“At nighttime you see everyone walking around everywhere. It’s the same number of people you would normally see on campus during the day,” senior psychology student Orlando Olano says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
FIU juniors Dylan Hoyos and Claudia Yaranga visit the fountain between classes with friends to play the game. The nostalgia of playing Pokémon as kids drew them in immediately after downloading it on their smartphones.
“We grew up with Pokémon so it feels like we’re reliving our childhood,” Yaranga says.
The game has also allowed them to explore the campus, the city and their own neighborhoods with a fresh perspective.
“We’ve discovered parks that we never knew about, places that we’ve been around our whole life that are new to us,” says Hoyos, who captured a rare species of Pokémon called a Magmar at the Chemistry & Physics Building recently. “It’s bringing so many people together in a new way.”
GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL
The FIU community has fully embraced its emergence as a Pokémon Go hub.
Earlier this month, Campus Life at BBC hosted a Pokémon Go event called “Battle For The Best Team at BBC” as part of their regular Panther Power ice cream social at Panther Square. FIU Theatre created a Pokemon Go-themed skit called “Catch The Moment.”
The FIU Libraries even created a PokéGuide to help students, faculty and staff get acquainted with everything they need to know about Pokémon Go, including a glossary of key terms and walking routes at MMC and BBC to help users hatch their Pokémon eggs.
“We wanted to include all the fun facts and also information about how educators and libraries are using Pokémon Go to improve student participation, engagement, marketing and other academic uses,” says Virtual Learning & Outreach librarian Melissa Del Castillo, who manages the guide with Health Sciences librarian Barbara M. Sorondo.
— FIU Libraries (@FIULibraries) July 20, 2016
A NEW WAY TO PLAY
As an aspiring social scientist, Olano was intrigued by the phenomena and decided to conduct an informal research survey of users on campus focusing on their walking habits prior to and after they started playing the game.
He spoke to approximately 90 people at MMC in a three day period during the first week of the game’s launch. Using the Pokémon Go app to see how much walking they were doing that day, a third of respondents reported walking at least twice as much as they normally would before downloading the game.
Many of the users on campus are younger FIU students and local high school students, indicating that the game’s appeal goes beyond nostalgia and is also attracting members of the community to campus, some for the first time.
“A kid who goes to Coral Park Senior High who maybe never thought about coming here before and then seeing the campus for the first time while playing the game, that might make an impact,” Olano says. “The game creates another opportunity to attract future students.”