SIDNEY — If you have noticed more people than normal walking around mesmerized by their phone lately, it’s most likely not due to texting, but instead participation in the newest craze out there right now — Pokemon Go.
The video game (and trading cards) that originally captured the interest of most elementary students when introduced in the mid 1990s has made its return to hearts of the now 20-something millennials seen all over town playing the newest version of the game on their cell phone for hours.
The location-based, augmented reality video game was released in the beginning of July and is played on iOS and Android devices.
In Pokemon Go, the real world becomes the playground arena and changes how traditional video games are played. The new version is different from the original because it requires physical activity to catch the Pokemons, opposed to sitting in a room and playing through a monitor.
Iraqi Freedom veteran Daniel Ostendorf, of Sidney, said he has lost 10 pounds in the 10 days since he began playing. Ostendorf said he used to run up to 10-miles a day, but gained a lot of weight after he returned home with the lower back injury sustained during his second tour in Iraq. Ostendorf can no longer run, but often walks four-to-eight miles a day while playing the game.
“It’s been a fun way lose weight and get out. I just gotta keep up the momentum,” Ostendorf said, who plays for several hours a day. “The game is a distraction from the pain.”
“It is the first of its kind; the augmented reality. I can definitely see it becoming a genre — a new type of game. It’s like something we have never seen before,” said Ostendorf, 27, on why he likes the game.
Players say often strangers become new friends while wondering around seeking and battling the various Pokemon creatures.
Ostendorf says he has met a lot of new people because in the evening there are “a ton of people” downtown on court square.
Jared Standley, 20, of Anna, set up a Facebook page to stay in contact with people he has met while playing.
“When in Anna, I’ll meet up with a couple of friends and play and have seen a group of over 30 people (downtown) playing — half didn’t even know each other,” Standley said of his experience.
He said he heard rumors on Facebook six-months-ago about the “concept” of Pokemon Go, and “thought it would be interesting,” so he downloaded the app and has played since day one.
Freddie Mayberry, of Troy, said he has also played since the first day it was released.
“I’d have to say it is so popular because you get out and meet people. It brings people together,” said Mayberry, 23, who most plays in the evenings with his younger sister.
“People say it’s stupid, but think of it from an exercise standpoint. It gets you moving. And I’ve met so many new people that I never knew.”
When asked how the schools plan to deal with the Pokemon popularity, local school superintendents responded with the fact that student’s cell phones are banned during school hours, but admitted they will deal with it as comes.
“This Pokemon thing cracks me up, but hey, I’m sure we will have to deal with it. I have seen people around town, especially downtown Sidney walking around most likely hunting Pokemon. Not too much going on out here in Fairlawn, but we will deal with it as it arises. Cell phone policies during school time will remain the same unless there are special situations this year,” said Fairlawn Local Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Hobbs.
Across the country, there have been reports of people being arrested, trapped or needed rescued from banned areas while playing the game. However, last week, Sidney Police Captain Bill Shoemaker said he has “no knowledge of any issues” the police department has had in Sidney.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.