Pokémon GO gets people outside and engaged

Andrew Buff -- a computer engineering student frequently referred to only as Buff -- played Pokemon GO at Mercer over the summer. He’s on level 20.

Image: Sarah Pounds

Andrew Buff — a computer engineering student frequently referred to only as Buff — played Pokemon GO at Mercer over the summer. He’s on level 20.

Sarah Pounds, Online Editor

When Pokémon GO came out this July, Andrew Buff was quick to jump on the wagon. He’s a computer engineering student at Mercer that was staying close to campus over the summer.

Buff said that one night, on the way back from dinner, he came across a large group of people gathered in a strange spot on the side of the road. He said that he remembered thinking: “they’ve gotta be playing Pokémon.”

They were. And Buff joined right in.

His friend, Tyler Giles, is a Mercer grad who was also in Macon over the summer. He played Pokémon Go a lot when it first came out, as well, and he said that one of the best parts of the game was the social element.

“If you just went downtown over the summer when it was new, it was everywhere,” Giles said.

“And everyone is happy to see everyone, because you know that you’re there for the same thing.”

It’s been almost two months since the Pokémon GO craze swept the nation, leading to large numbers of people moving at a snail’s pace through public spaces and constant conversations about what levels they’ve unlocked.

Initially, Andrew Silver, a Mercer professor and a man involved in the revitalization of Tattnall Square Park, wasn’t entirely on board with the whole thing. While it is geared towards increased use of public spaces like the park, Silver had to deal with much more personal involvement with the game: his son, Noah, was addicted.

“For the past few days, Pokémon-Go (sic) has, like some adorable, virtual Svengali, led my son Noah all over College Hill, with me tagging helplessly behind him as he captures whole herds of pidgeys, rattatas, and an assortment of mostly cute animated uber-emojis,” Silver wrote in the Friends of Tattnall Square Park Facebook page.

Silver went on to discuss the game in a long post, which triggered an even longer conversation. At one point, Andy Carter, a Macon photographer and Mercer employee, jumped into the thread. First, with a meme. Then a comment.

“Here’s the thing,” Carter wrote. “I walked around Mercer Thursday night and there were probably 25 folks that looked like they’d never interact in any other situation, playing Pokémon, and they were all talking, smiling and laughing with each other. And I thought that was pretty neat.”

Silver has relented a bit on his previous statements since the clamor around the game has died down. He said that it’s mostly due to his son.

“It has gotten us out of the house and walking around a whole lot more than I’d have expected,” he said. “Overall, it has been a thousand times better than, say, the Wii.”

If you’re playing Pokémon GO in Macon, be sure to check out Gateway Macon’s list of the top 5 places to catch Pokémon.