Fans of new smartphone game Pokémon Go take over Central Park to catch hidden creatures
Poké-mania has taken over the city, the nation — and, perhaps soon, planet Earth!
Obsessed fans of the new smartphone game Pokémon Go are flooding city landmarks by the dozens, chasing and catching the virtual creatures hidden throughout Central Park, Union Square Park and other spaces.
The wildly popular free “augmented-reality” game requires fans to move around in real life using their phones’ cameras and GPS to hunt for Pokémon that appear on their screens. The game encourages players to interact and explore their surroundings. It has also caused Nintendo’s stock to surge — 25% percent on Monday.
Near E. 66th St. in Central Park, teenagers from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens walked around in groups, hunting for the creatures that tended to lurk near statues of the author Walter Scott, the legendary sled dog Balto and a memorial to the 107th Infantry in World War I.
The gamers were easy to spot — they all stared intently at their phones, wandering as if they were hunting for treasure.
Walking couples held hands and swiped away at the same time.
“I’ve gone outside so much more since it came out. I’m a lot more active,” said Joe Faccibene, 18, who downloaded the game Wednesday, the day it was released by Nintendo and Silicon Valley-based company Niantic.
He’d chased Pokémon into parts of the city he’d never visited before and often ran into strangers pursuing the same creature.
It wasn’t uncommon to join 20 people at the same spot swiping for a Pokémon, he said.
There were so many players in one section of the park that it appeared to have overwhelmed the game’s system.
“The server keeps crashing!” said Ijeoma Nnadi, 15, who came from Queens with two friends after hearing word that the park was packed with Pokémon.
Matt Dahl, 29, of Red Bank, N.J., said the game gave him the opportunity to enjoy a bit of nostalgia over the Japanese franchise that launched in 1996. He traded Pokémon cards in the late 1990s and played one of the early video games on a Game Boy.
Pokémon Go has become such a phenomenon, it’s even attracted the hatemongers at Westboro Baptist Church. One gamer with a sense of humor noted that the Topeka, Kan., site had been designated a Pokémon “gym” where gamers can compete against each other.
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That user then claimed the location under the profile LOVEISLOVE — prompting the church to tweet that it had dispatched its own critter “to deal with the sodomite loveislove.”
The game has also caused concern among authorities.
The MTA tweeted a warning for players not to follow creatures off train platforms.
In Missouri, police said they arrested four teens after they allegedly lured victims to remote locations using the game and robbed them.