Pokémon Go in Westmoreland County!

Let’s talk about Pokémon Go.

The Game Boy Era

Pokemon_Yellow.pngAs a kid in the late 90s, the Pokémon craze was in full swing. Some of the boys in my sixth grade class at Mountain View Elementary school played the card game, but what really took hold with both boys and girls were the  intend Gameboy video games. For Christmas 1999 my parents bought my sisters and I the Pokémon Yellow edition of the game—which, of course, featured the adorable yellow Pikachu (there was also Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Red at the time, and they featured Squirtle and Charmander respectively).

The game was loads of fun. Your character, Ash, walked around a virtual world, capturing and collecting Pokémon, battling trainers at special “Gyms”, and earning money for each battle won. The Pokémon world had several towns that your character traveled to, all while fighting wild Pokémon in the wildernesses between towns. The game wasn’t based on passing levels so much as questing through an entire world, so a special “Save” featured was included. You could play as much or as little of the game at any given time, and save your progress as you went along.

The only major issue was that only one person could save their progress—something no one knew until the game was already opened and fights were starting over who would get to play the game first. My family only had one Game Boy, after all, and buying another edition of the game was also not going to happen. So my parents picked my twin sister to play the game before me. It may have been halfway through spring before my twin sister had had enough of the game that I was finally allowed to start it anew and save over her progress.

I’m still bitter about it.

While I had a great time playing the game during long car trips or on the hammock on really hot summer days, the Pokémon fad faded, as fades do. My one Pokémon card (that a boy in my sixth grade class gave me) went to my 7-year-old cousin when I entered junior high. The Game Boy was picked up less and less in our household. I never did catch all 250 Pokémon that could be caught and traded between players of the game (oh yeah, this game also allowed people to connect their Game Boys with cords to make “trades” if they wanted to. My sisters and I never did this because we were too cheap to buy the necessary equipment.) I know younger kids were playing the game as regularly as 2006, but for the most part the craze was over with me personally by the time I entered junior high in August 2000, when I was supposedly “too old” for games like Pokémon.

 

Nostalgia in the Smartphone Era

Then Pokémon Go came out on July 6, 2016.

Clueless me didn’t discover it until all of my friends on Facebook—some of them the same sixth grade classmates who had shared in the craze the first time around—started posting their photos. I downloaded it onto my iPhone out of nostalgia, and was pleasantly surprised as I caught my first Pidgey, Weedle, and Eevee. Here was a Pokémon game that I didn’t have to share with my twin sister! And the best part? It forced me to get off my butt and walk around to catch all the Pokémon!

And the other best part?! PokéStops (where players can replenish their supplies of PokéBalls and other items to catch more Pokémon or fight in PokéGym) were prevalent at a many of the Westmoreland Heritage Partner sites!

 

Westmoreland Heritage Partner Sites and Pokémon Go

When the game was first available for download several of the partner sites with park-like acreage reported seeing gaggles of teens and pre-teens walking the grounds with cell phones out.

Despite the bad press the app has received since its first weeks, most of the local historical and cultural sites are ecstatic that the game has placed so much of the Pokémon Go activity (in the form of PokéStops and Gyms) at their sites, and have embraced the craze.

The first Westmoreland Heritage Partner to take advantage of the game’s popularity was West Overton Village. On Wednesday, August 10, they had an evening of Pokémon Go, with free Wi-Fi, water, popcorn, and prizes for most Pokémon caught! It looks like it was a blast from the photos!

 

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Historic Hanna’s Town followed with their own event last Saturday, August 20, where they provided Lures at their PokeStops and recorded the variety of Pokémon caught there. They also had the most adorable and appropriately 18th century Pikachu.

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Finally, Bushy Run Battlefield will be hosting their own Pokémon Go event this Sunday, August 28, during their Community Picnic at the Battlefield, with Lures and prizes for best Pokémon photo caught on site.

It hasn’t been 100% confirmed, but there *may* also be a Pokémon Go event at the Great American Banana Split Celebration this weekend. The only way to find out is to go to that event and see for yourself! And, if there is no event, at least you’ll be at a festival dedicated entirely to the most iconic ice cream treat ever.

As an aside, 12-year-old me would be astounded that 29-year-old me would actually be playing Pokémon for work. 

Next blog post: The Great American Banana Split Celebration!

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