Pokemon GO catches attention of students, community


Jackson Barton

Pokemon GO players plan trips downtown to catch pocket monsters and battle other trainers. “There were groups of fifty people at each intersection at 3 a.m. after the bars let out,” Frager said.


Over the summer, the nation was suddenly engulfed by the largest “Pokémania” since 1999. The international phenomena to “catch ‘em all” reached students and teachers alike.

“Pokémon GO”, an augmented reality GPS-based game, has captured the hearts of both dedicated Pokémon fans and casual players across the world. Though the app was only available in the United States at its release on July 6, as of August 30, servers are operational in 72 countries and in every continent besides Africa and Antarctica.

Photography teacher Sarah Podrasky used the app to bond with members of her family.

“I mainly started playing [Pokémon GO] because my niece…loves playing it. It’s another way to hang out with her,” Podrasky said. “She was playing it all the time, so I thought I might as well try it out. We would be downtown looking at art, and then we would also catch some Pokémon.”

Senior Lane Weis found the game easy to get into, but it also compelled him to connect with other people playing the app.

“It requires a lot of communication between players,” Weis said. “It doesn’t require any information about Pokémon… it’s pretty easy to get into… A lot of the game’s mechanics aren’t explained right away, so you get them from hearing about it from other people, which makes it more of a cooperative thing, and that’s part of why it got popular…”

Weis played the game long enough to reach level 12 and is a member of team Mystic.

In “Pokémon GO”, once a player reaches level 5, they have the ability to join one of three teams. A player can choose whichever team they want, but tend to pick the faction that their friends are members of. The Free Press twitter ran a poll asking students which team they had joined.









The results of the poll were strikingly similar to the results from a poll done by the official Pokémon twitter account.










Players now look at Lawrence with a new perspective. Downtown is commonly accepted as the best place to stock up on items and “Pokeballs”, while KU campus is the prime location for intense gym battles. On Massachusetts street, the rush to be the very best has given new opportunities to local businesses. Particularly the Mana Bar, an exotic tea and drink shop which promises “a unique experience of Asia and the South Pacific”, according to the store’s website.

The Mana Bar’s general manager, Charles Frager, described what it was like Downtown after the game’s launch.

“It was astounding … it really showed me how much of a phenomena this is, and will be.””

— Charles Frager

“[It was] an explosion,” Frager said. “There were groups of fifty people at each intersection at 3 a.m. after the bars let out, which is usually when downtown becomes a ghost town.”

The Mana Bar has its own “Pokéstop” (a waypoint used to obtain items), and offers refreshments as well as free Pokémon “lures” for any player who was looking to escape the summer heat during the game’s peak popularity.



During the first week of the app’s release, the Mana Bar announced on Facebook that they would be consistently placing lures on their Pokéstop for the next several days. Frager recalled what happened on the first day of the event.

Charles Frager checked on his Pokemon while he managed at the Mana Bar. Frager stated that every employee at the Mana Bar who has a smartphone plays Pokemon GO.
Jackson Barton
Charles Frager checked on his Pokemon while he managed at the Mana Bar. Frager stated that every employee at the Mana Bar who owns a smartphone played Pokemon GO.

“As soon as I dropped that first lure, we had a group of fifty people out front,” Frager said. “Every single spot in the lobby was full. We legally couldn’t allow anyone else inside … it was astounding … it really showed me how much of a phenomena this is, and will be.”

Frager also emphasized how the game never created conflict between strangers playing the game, despite the game splitting players into three distinct teams.

“I’ve never seen anybody get into a fight over [“Pokémon GO”], I’ve never seen anybody get into the normal screaming contests when someone has a difference in team” Frager said. “It’s been such a uniformly respectful group, from people who, maybe in a different context, may not have been.”

Frager explained that the game correlates with the Mana Bar’s philosophy.

“It’s a good combination of the social, the digital and then also the healthful,” Frager said. “That’s really something that this whole business is entirely geared around: healthful living, healthier alternatives or things to maintain bodily health, and in “Pokémon GO”, you’re getting cardio the entire time you’re playing.”

Podrasky agreed that the game can make exercise exciting.

“It’s good for students–and everybody really–to get some exercise,” Podrasky said. “It’s a fun thing to do while you’re out and about. To be able to catch new characters and then meet new people.”

Though the game was a smash hit over the summer, Weis believes many players have left the game, but a dedicated user base will remain.

“I feel like a lot of people aren’t really playing it. The massive popularity of the first couple of weeks has ended. I still think there’s going to be a dedicated user base. I’ll probably start playing it every once and awhile. I’m sure a lot of other students will do the same.”