Pokemon are bringing people together.
That was the consensus of hundreds, maybe more than a thousand, Pokemon Go players who attended a lunch-hour event in downtown Akron on Thursday.
“We really need this,” said 26-year-old Arieon Dooley. “With all that’s been happening in the news lately, it’s really good that we’ve got something to unify us — even if it’s silly.”
Dooley, her 21-year-old sister, Asia Dooley, and their 21-year-old friend Angel Foxx visited downtown Akron specifically for the event, which was hosted by a group of Akron businesses and nonprofit groups.
“Pokemon came out when I was young,” the elder Dooley said. “I wanted to be a Pokemon master but my mom told me it would never happen. Look at me now.”
The event in downtown Akron followed a week of global hysteria since the release of Pokemon Go, a mobile app that bills itself as an “augmented reality” game. The game randomly and periodically places the collectible critters in real-world locations, where players must travel in order to catch them. The game also makes certain landmarks and art installations into “Pokestops,” where players can gather in-game items to help them on their adventures.
Akron’s event placed “Lure Modules” in the Pokestops along Main Street and the newly christened King James Way. The modules attracted even more Pokemon than usual to the area, meaning players could collect the creatures more quickly and interact with other players doing the same. Pokemon started as a video game featuring Japanese anime characters and evolved into a card game, toys, a TV show and more.
The event was sponsored and planned by the Akron Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Akron Partnership, the Knight Foundation, the University of Akron, Unbox Akron and Pritt Entertainment Group, which closed down for the lunch hour to allow employees to participate.
The lunch-hour players were young, old, male, female, black, white, blue-collar, white-collar. Some came downtown from Copley Township and Barberton to attend.
Among the event-goers were Mike Gerst, 44, and his three children: 13-year-old twins Elise and Michael and 6-year-old Ryan.
“This is great,” he said, explaining that he and his family — who live in Copley — came to downtown Akron specifically to play the game. “I didn’t even know what Pokemon was before this.”
Gerst said he and his family went to a cemetery in Fairlawn the night before to explore and play the game, and the downtown Akron event seemed like fun for them, too.
Meanwhile, 47-year-old Rikki Horrigan was on her lunch break from work. Like most days since she downloaded the game, she said she spent her lunch hour walking up and down the street. She didn’t know an event was going, but she did notice how many more Pokestops were set up.
“There’s many more than usual,” she said, “but there are always lures set up during the lunch hour.”
She said her children grew up playing Pokemon, and she used to play the card game with them.
“This is really exciting though,” she said, gesturing to her phone.
The event was not without its hiccups, though. So many people playing the game in close proximity appeared to make it harder for some players to log on.
Jordan Lance and Cody Miller, both 21, said they tried to get online several times but the game kept crashing. Still, they said it was nice to see many people gathered for the game.
Lance said she went on long walks even before the game came out, but the game is added incentive.
Miller agreed, explaining his younger brother has been more active since the app was released.
“For the most part, my brother’s been sort of a social recluse,” he said, “but this game has prompted him to get outside and meet up with friends outside. I think it’s great.”
Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ngfalcon.