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By Chris Ricci

Over twenty years after it first landed on American Shores, Pokemon has suddenly faced a revival that not only shows the significance of the franchise but also shows how much people truly love it. Before, you were stuck playing the game with a Gameboy and had to imagine what it would be like to journey around from city to city hunting unique and rare Pokemon. Now, thanks to innovations in mobile technology, these dreams have finally become a reality.

Pokemon Go landed in app stores last month, and has quickly become one of the most widely used apps of all time. The app takes your GPS location and augments reality so that, suddenly, you’re surrounded by stops where you can get items, Gyms where you can battle other players, and (of course) Pokemon. Unlike the older games where you could lounge around and travel the Pokemon world from the comfort of your couch, this app requires you to get outside and walk around.  The only way to level up your character and to find more Pokemon is to travel around on foot and explore, which for many is a quintessential additive to the Pokemon franchise. Some places around the country are dead-zones without much to do or catch, but fortunately for residents and visitors, Salem serves as the perfect place to play Pokemon Go.

Throughout the town, players can swing by just about any building and find PokeStops where players not only get experience points, but can also put down lures to attract Pokemon. Flying Saucer Pizza Company, strategically located between three of these stops, has seen a major influx of business, and as been covered by Vice media on how the game has impacted their customer base and their work.  “I was in front of flying saucer by myself while I was waiting for my girlfriend and there were about 20 people playing all in separate groups. One guy yells out ‘there’s an omanyte nearby!’  So we all start waking in one direction” said Blane Rogers. “About 15 minutes later were all taking and tracking down this Pokemon and this FedEx guy pops out of his truck and yells ‘he’s over there! I just caught him!’ And we all went and caught him. It was a great bonding experience.” Throughout the news, negative stories have been running about people either playing the game recklessly to the point where people are outright asking if Pokemon Go is a good thing at all. Despite the naysayers, countless Salem residents agree that the game is not only a fun thing to do in town, but is also extremely significant.

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“I am a different person in summer. Depressed, angry, can barely move due to really, bad debilitating sadness. I never go out unless I have to go to work. My friends know they will see me again in the fall” said LH Roberts, a member of the Pokemon GO (North Shore) group. “Yet the past few nights I’ve actually WANTED to go out to catch some Pokémon. I’m not ready to socialize quite yet, but the fact that something got me out of the house in summer?  Damn near miracle.” Other restaurants in the area are situated between PokeStops as well. Village Tavern and Tavern in the Square have also seen influxes of people because of their strategic location. “We specifically went to dinner at the tavern in the square last night and sat in the corner of the bar had a few drinks and lured a next door pokestop within reach” said Brandon Lafoe. “The waiter came over and asked how we were doing in Pokemon and sparked conversation. He then told us he played. And told us every one of his tables he was waiting on outside were playing.”

The social aspect of the game is undeniable, and many people are able to walk around and talk freely with people playing the same game and feel a sense of community. “I live in Gloucester and saw three lure modules set up. Went down there and there were at least 20 people playing at 11 at night” said Matt Hussey. “I said hello to a group of strangers that were playing and made some new friends, played Pokemon, and talked for about 2 hours.” Samara Gee also has experienced a major sense of positivity with passersby while playing this game. “The other night I was out in Salem and I stopped to catch a Squirtle. Three dudes were coming towards me on the sidewalk and I tensed, as I often do when strange men approach me. But then I heard ‘Hey, she’s playing too!’ and we talked about the Squirtle I was catching” she said. “It was such a wonderful change from the usual street interactions!”

Salem may be an epicenter for the game itself, but this is for a very good reason. Yes, it’s great that we have all these different stops and are able to catch a wide range of Pokemon, but there’s something about Salem that makes this game a bit different. Michelle Bettencourt outlined this perfectly by saying that her favorite thing about the game is simple: where she’s playing it. “My favorite thing about this game is that I would never be out at 1 AM, wandering down by the lighthouse and the wharf. I’d be too afraid of who I might run into. Now, I’m shouting across parks and lots to get a strangers attention to ask them what team they’re on” she said. “In a world where every news story drives me to be more fearful of my neighbor, this game brings me closer together to people I’ve never met. I love that.”

SALEM"S FIRST POKEMON CELEBRATION!

Creative Salem and Flying Saucer Pizza Company presents SalemGO! Catch em All on Sunday, July 31 from 2:30PM – 9:00 PM starting at Flying Saucer Pizza Company and culminating in a outdoor party in Lappin Park at 7PM.

The main event is a city-wide scavenger hunt paired with the popular mobile game PokemonGo!  The scavenger hunt, created by Creative Salem and Flying Saucer, will be powered by the free mobile app ActionBound. 

The event will be an all-day PokeWalk, where participants in teams of 3 can casually follow the map with some friends, or can participate in the Pokemon-Themed scavenger hunt that will take teams all around downtown Salem. Silvermoon Comics will be hosting a free costume contest at their store.  Participation is free, but space is limited – pre-registration is encouraged.

The after-party will have a live DJ (ASEF) and beer sold by Ipswich Ale Brewery in Lappin Park, on the corner of Washington and Essex in downtown Salem.  Pizza will be provided by Flying Saucer Pizza Company.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

2:30 – 3:30PM TEAM CHECK IN AND PIZZA PARTY – FLYING SAUCER PIZZA COMPANY

3:30 – 7:00PM SCAVENGER HUNT AND POKEWALK

7:00 – 9:00PM AFTER PARTY LAPPIN PARK

LINKS:

Full event information available on event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1369187699761268/ 

Pre-Register your team: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/salemgo-catch-em-all-tickets-26757809328

SPONSORS:

ASEF https://www.facebook.com/AsefMusics/

Ipswich Ale Brewery: https://www.ipswichalebrewery.com/

Silvermoon Comics: https://www.silvermooncomics.com/

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