Yes, Pokemon Go, the augmented reality phone game that had everybody chasing Pikachus a few years ago, is still around. And yes, hundreds of people here in the Twin Cities are still playing.
But they’re soon to lose one of their favorite hunting spots: the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
Fairgrounds Police Chief Paul Paulos told the Pioneer Press that this was far from arbitrary. Pokemon Go players were parking their cars in the middle of the street, running stop signs, pinged retaining walls and crashing.
On days when the game spread around a lot of valuable virtual loot or turned loose a rare and valuable “legendary” Pokemon, it got even worse. Nobody, he said, has been injured… yet.
It’s not that the players themselves were hooligans. In general, they were “polite people.” Since coming down from peak popularity in 2016, the players have, increasingly, been infatuated adults, not rowdy teens. But it was getting to be too much of a hassle.
The department issued a statement earlier this month saying they’d asked Niantic, the company that made the game, to turn the fairgrounds into a virtual dead zone.
Players are disappointed. They used to go there all the time – sometimes making hundreds of visits a day. And it’s easy to understand why if you’re at all familiar with the game.
In PoGo, your goal is to catch as many kinds of Pokemon as possible, and the only way to do that is by using items like Pokeballs and tempting bait – plus eggs you have to carry around until they hatch into newborn sludge piles, fire-horses, and the occasional Pikachu. The only way to get those items is to walk – specifically to virtual points on the map called Pokestops.
A Pokemon Go player is happiest when they’re in a contained, out-of-the way place where there’s a Pokestop on every corner, gyms where you can battle rival teams, and plenty of space for huge crowds of players to gather.
That’s why the fairgrounds are perfect. As recently as January, over 100 bundled-up players – mostly adults -- crowded by the butterfly house in order to join forces and take down a ridiculously overpowered monster. Those who have played the original Gameboy games know it’s about as close as walking through the quaint, carless world of Pokemon as you can get.
Fortunately, there are still other ways for players to get their fix. Online maps and Reddit threads alike agree the University of Minnesota and Rice Park are great places to catch ‘em all.