New game, Pokemon Go, popular with young residents


O’Fallon & Shiloh police departments issue safety tips, urge players to use caution

Friends took a break from walking around downtown O'Fallon to take advantage of lures set at Pokestops at the O'Fallon Historical Society and the caboose. From left to right: Matt Zawasky, Matt Rowewe, Laney Restoff, Stephanie Huller and Beckie Freeman. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

Friends took a break from walking around downtown O’Fallon to take advantage of lures set at Pokestops at the O’Fallon Historical Society and the caboose. From left to right: Matt Zawasky, Matt Rowewe, Laney Restoff, Stephanie Huller and Beckie Freeman. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

O’FALLON – O’Fallon and Shiloh residents have been swept up in the latest trend, Pokemon Go.

At any given time, groups of players can be found at various landmarks and businesses around town, capturing virtual pokemon, or pocket monsters. Some stops provide power up items while others, known as gyms, allow players to battle their collected pokemon against one another.

One resident, Ann Sheerin, recently went out pokemon hunting at night with Logan Waight. Sheerin works at the O’Fallon Community Park Pool and said, “I see people hunting Pokemon all day long. Kids who are swimming will ask their moms if they can go find the Pokemon while they’re in the pool.”

Other players, Jamie Marotte and Laney Restoff, both said that in the past 24 hours, they’d both walked just over six miles. They gave their comment to the Weekly while working feverishly to take over a gym, tapping rapidly on the screen of their phones.

Increased exercise was a common thread among many players we spoke with.

“I’ve been really enjoying this game and I’ve been pretty lazy over the summer. But this game has gotten me out of the house and I’m walking five miles a day,” said James Kelly.

“It’s a good way to hangout with your friends and it gives you something to do when you’re biking too. I bike from cross country practice to home and so I catch pokemon too. It’s just a lot of fun,” said Andrew Combs.

The game itself uses Google Maps to allow players to explore their surroundings. Some locations are designated as “pokestops” which are landmarks where players can go and collect items that they can use later. Players must be in close range of the pokestop in order to access the items. A few local businesses were labeled as pokestops in the game.

One such business is O’Charlie’s restaurant. A representative from O’Charlie’s told the Weekly that while they’ve noticed more people coming around the restaurant and walking around the parking lot, they haven’t seen a direct increase in business.

Another business, Orange Leaf, is also a pokestop. Orange Leaf has embraced the game, dropping in game lures that attract pokemon to its location. These lures also attract players that stop in to see what sorts of pokemon come around.

Orange Leaf employee Alex Reamer told the Weekly its hard to tell what impact the game has had on business.

“I don’t know how much it impacts us business-wise. We’ve seen a lot of kids come in here and then leave without buying anything. When people do come in, and they play, they tend to sit for a while and play,” said Reamer.

Reamer did say that the day shift sees less activity and that the night shift employees are dealing with Pokemon Go players much more.

Josh Price hunts for Pokemon in O'Fallon Community Park with his friend Tom.

Josh Price hunts for Pokemon in O’Fallon Community Park with his friend Tom.

While the application has it’s benefits, there are also several health related concerns.

The app has been described as beneficial since it promotes physical activity and gets people to go outside, and explore their environment. It encourages walking, jogging, and bike riding over the easy approach of car rides. To ensure this, if somebody is moving faster than 12 kilometers per hour, the application will not register the movement as steps, which in turn does not allow for virtual eggs to hatch and users to gain new pokemon.

However, that has not deterred many trainers from driving around to search for pokemon. This has proven to be an issue, and despite various traffic signs warning drivers not to play, as well as the app itself warning the users to be aware of their surroundings, many drivers become distracted while searching for these augmented reality monsters.

Additionally. looking down at your cell phone in a slouched position for a long period of time can cause “tech neck,” which is a condition that can lead to sagging skin on the neck, as well as other parts of the face. As one would expect, back problems could always follow suit, as well as painful headaches and other irritation. Looking at a screen for prolonged periods of time can also be detrimental, causing strain on the eyes as well.

Local law enforcement agencies have been made aware of Pokemon Go, and have suggestions for those playing the game. Recently the O’Fallon Police Department posted a set of suggestions and warnings on their Facebook page.

Shiloh Police Department’s Assistant Chief, Gary McGill also said that players can have fun, but also need to play safe.

“I think we can appreciate that the Pokémon Go fad is getting people out of their house. Kids are putting down their game console controllers and putting on their shoes. They are walking around, exploring and meeting people. The draw backs are that you have to be careful who you meet, where you go and of what you are doing. Personally, I have seen in populated areas where people are on the same sidewalk together chasing Pokémon and interacting with each other. Great for society and communication. I have also seen where a Pokémon was near a restaurant entrance and cars and people where congesting the entrance to try to catch a Pokémon. I also saw several people taking pictures of the sign in front of our police department and found out that there was a Pokémon there also,” said McGill.

McGill also gave some safety tips for players.

“Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t use the game while driving, ever! Don’t use the game near traffic, obstacles or where common sense tells you that you should pay more attention to what is in front of you. Don’t stand in areas that are going to intrude or obstruct the movement of other people or cars.”

McGill continued saying players should be mindful of people around them.

“If you or your child can find a Pokémon, so can the local pick-pocket, criminal, or child sex offender. Just because there is a Pokémon in a certain area, doesn’t mean that you have to go catch it. Stay out of areas that you are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with. Stay out of areas that could be inherently dangerous like construction sites, highways areas, etc,” McGill said.

McGill also said players should be mindful of whether they are on private property.

“Stay off of private property. I know for a fact that some people have caught a Pokémon or two in their own home or someone else’s home. If you see a Pokémon that is in someone else’s house or on their property, you should just leave that alone. A majority of people would not be real comfortable if the saw people looking like they were taking pictures on their lawn. They would be especially freaked out if you ring their doorbell and ask if you can come in to catch “Krabby”. Just don’t do it.”