The summer of 2016 was the season of Pokemon Go. Within days of its launch, about 45 million people were playing worldwide. Numerous pieces were written about the game, about the collection of user data, about its ability to get video game enthusiasts active, about its positive effects on children on the autistic spectrum, and about its culpability in the numerous accidents involving app users. Still, by all intents and purposes, the app’s launch was a success.
Perhaps the most conspicuous show of Pokemon Go’s success was the massive crowds it drew, and still does draw, to various pokemon hot spots around New York City. Central Park hosted thousands of Pokemon Go players at all hours of the day, even past park hours. Players would huddle around the square on the southeast corner of Central Park, located perfectly equidistant from 5 different pokestops.
One early July morning, at that location just outside Central Park, I witnessed something quite beautiful: a huge crowd of people taking turns to set up lures and getting excited about whatever just appeared on everyone’s screens. At first glance, you could tell who had come in a group and who had come alone or in pairs, but after a while, those lines began to blur. With the focus on catching pokemon rather than battling, I witnessed a coming together.
Experienced trainers explained aspects of the game to the more green players. A man buys waters for the players hanging out around the food truck parked at the edge of the square. A pokemon tracking app notified a player of the Snorlax inside the park and he let everyone know, drawing a huge crowd to the stone border, the closest they could get to it at 4 in the morning.
Reports show that daily users are dropping off at a steady rate, but still about 30 million users continue to go strong, and a large portion of them can be found in NYC. For a city that’s known for harboring some of the rudest citizens, New York has maybe found its nice. Despite the user drop off, there will no doubt be countless pokemon trainers occupying the square, helping each other find rare pokemon and sharing tips on leveling up. Because that is how we New Yorkers do.