SANTA MONICA—Hundreds flocked to the Santa Monica Pier last week in pursuit of one thing: Pokémon.
Pokémon Go, a GPS-focused mobile app spin off from the 1995 media franchise, Pokémon, has gained popularity since its release earlier this month. Stock prices for Nintendo, which owns Pokémon, shot up 25 percent within a week of the games release.
The game was developed by Niantic Inc. and employs augmented reality; mixing real-world elements with the game. The craze prompted a mob to gather Monday, July 11, at the oceanside venue.
Users are required to physically travel about to find and collect Pokémon that virtually appear and access specific locations called Pokestops – where players can collect Pokéballs, Poke eggs, or other potentially useful items.
Hundreds of Southern Californians were seen engrossed by their smartphones from 10 p.m. Monday until as late as 5 a.m. Tuesday. The Santa Monica Pier has been deemed by several sources as one of the top hotspots to catch Pokémon in the Los Angeles area.
A similar event transpired last week on Thursday, July 14, in NYC, when a mob of Pokémon Go-ers stampeded through Central Park in pursuit of a rare Pokémon that was spotted near the public green space; users in the area caught word that a “Vaporeon” (an incredibly rare Pokémon) was wandering around Central Park late Thursday night and swarmed the spot.
Matt Bonan, 20, a New York University student and Pokémon Go player was amidst the chaos and told Canyon News the experience was surreal.
“I was in the area so when I heard about Vaporeon my friends and I headed in that direction,” said Bonan “But I definitely did not expect to see a mob like I did – it definitely makes you realize how much this game has blown up.” He added, “it’s crazy.”
While Pokémon Go is sweeping the nation, law enforcement officials have forewarned that the game comes with potential hazards: four teenagers in Missouri were arrested and accused of using the app to lure players and rob them; a 19-year-old woman in Wyoming stumbled across a dead body floating in a river amid her search for a water-type Pokémon; and two men fell off a bluff in Encinitas while Pokémon Go-ing.
Sheriff’s officials in Virginia issued a stern warning to Pokémon Go users upon experiencing an increase in “trespassing and suspicious activity,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Players were entering businesses, churches, and government facilities at all hours, according to Sheriff’s officials.
“These actions are considered trespassing and put the individual and deputies in a position of unnecessary risk. Please refrain from going onto property without proper permission or after appropriate times. Parents should encourage their children to avoid these actions for their own safety and enjoy the game responsibly,” said the Goochland County Sheriff’s Office in a statement.