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Library helps gamers "catch 'em all"
(L to R) Gamers at Pokemon Go Walk Jennifer Kelley, J.P. Watkins and Manson Brown.

“Gotta catch ‘em all” was a common phrase with kids during the late 1990s and early 2000s as they watched the Pokémon cartoon show on television. That same phrase is enjoying a major resurgence today, thanks to the new game, Pokémon Go.

In fact, the game has become so popular the Kershaw County Library’s Camden branch recently hosted a Pokémon Go Walk, attracting a small but enthusiastic group of gamers.

But the question probably still remains for many: just what is Pokémon and why is it so popular?

Pokémon is short for “Pocket Monsters” according to the Oxford Dictionary website. They are cute and ugly creatures featured in Pokémon games and in the televised series. As trainers (gamers) raise and command Pokémon, the monsters become more experienced and turn into stronger Pokémon. On the animated series and in the game, the pokéball, a red and white ball is the tool individuals use to capture the monsters. 

Pokémon Go is an app gamers can download. If an individual downloads the game on a phone, the app provides tools to catch the pocket monsters on the gamer’s phone screen. After download and set up, a gamer looks at the screen and a monster will be there. Each gamer starts off with about 10 pokéballs but can buy more online if they want. To catch a monster, the gamer taps the pokeball, swirls it and throws it toward the monster. The monster can either dodge the ball or decide if it wants to be caught. On the screen the gamer can see if the monster has been captured. If the ball shakes multiple times and the monster pops out, the gamer must start the process again until the monster is captured. It sometimes takes more than three tries -- and that’s how gamers lose their pokéballs and have to collect more. 

Jennifer Kelley, Public Relations and Outreach Librarian for all three branches in the county, talked about the recent Pokemon Go Walk. 

 “Folks in their 20s or 30s grew up with Pokémon and enjoy it…Since we are a pokéstop, we said, ‘let’s have an event like this related to Pokémon,’” Kelley said. “You learn at historic markers because information about a certain monument will pop up on the phone while playing the game. We wanted to attract people and let them know the library is cool.” 

Kelley said the library also wanted to help people play safely and still have fun. Ever since Pokémon Go came onto the scene in July, some people have run into problems while playing. For example, they have gotten into car accidents and trespassed on property, she said. 

Never play Pokémon and drive, ride a bike, skateboard or use any other transportation device; watch where you are walking; be aware of “stranger-danger” and be respectful of your surroundings, Kelley told the gamers. And, if you are a person who makes your phone your world, avoid playing Pokémon Go, she said. 

In fact, if you want to keep a strong battery charge on your phone, avoid playing too much Pokémon Go, Gamer Nicholas Thames added. 

“The dangers of playing Pokémon Go are low battery. If you are not paying attention, you could walk somewhere dangerous. Do not drive while playing and avoid playing alone at night,” Thames said. 

Here are some basics of Pokémon Go. 

The game has more than 15 skill levels and several tools are utilized to capture monsters and advance, including a backpack, potions and eggs. The backpack holds pokéballs and berries to help gamers catch the monsters. There is also the augmented reality (AR) option that gamers can use when attempting to catch a Pokémon. For example, on a gamer’s screen the Pokémon is visible in the environment the game provides. Once augmented reality (AR) is on, the gamer sees the monster around objects and landmarks in the real world. 

After players hit level five, they are asked to join one of three teams in the game, which are based on three legendary bird Pokémon. Team Mystic’s color is blue, and the bird mascot is Articuno, and the team leader is Blanche. Team Valor’s color is red, and the bird mascot is Moltres, and the team leader is Candela. Team Instinct’s color is yellow, the bird mascot is Zapdos, and the team leader is Spark. 

The Camden library is a pokéstop. Pokéstops are landmarks, libraries or monuments. 

“Cemeteries are often monuments,” Kelley said. “Be respectful when you go there. You don’t even have to be near the tombstones to get your items; you can stand at the entrance and still get your items.” 

During the walk, Kelley and her coworker, J.P. Watkins distributed buttons for the different teams- Mystic, Valor and Instinct. Players could also decorate their own pokéballs or do origami for a common Pokémon character, Pikachu. Participants walked to the library’s moniker, grabbed their phones, and collected items at that pokéstop. They then walked to the Camden Archives and Museum where a few gamers sat in their vehicles playing the game.  

If anyone has ever wondered why there seem to be more cars than usual parked in the Camden Archives and Museum parking lot day and night, it might be because the Two Men Memorial is a pokéstop. At these stops, using their phones, gamers collect various items – potions, pokeballs, eggs --  that help them catch more Pokémon. Because these items are at the stops, gamers do not have to buy them online. 

Ryan Carraway and Frederick Wilson are Pokémon Go gamers; they explained the importance of Pokémon eggs. When a gamer finds an egg, the gamer can incubate the egg, hatch a monster, and raise and train it, they said.

“These are the main motivators to get people to walk. You have to walk 2, 5, or 10 kilometers to hatch said eggs!” Carraway said. 

He explained that Lure Modules can be placed at Pokéstops to attract Pokémon to the stops. For example, if someone was standing outside of the library, they can activate the lure option on the Pokémon Go phone app and anybody standing around the Camden library could use their phones to see what monster is there. 

“The game is helping gamers make friends with strangers who are fellow trainers,” Carraway said. 

Some people catch monsters while they sit in their cars; others go outside and walk. 

“This game actually makes you get up and go outside,” Wilson said. 

The game has attracted people of all ages, players note. 

Elgin resident Amanda Weaver said she started playing because she enjoys competing with her husband. 

“I had to play the game to beat him,” Weaver said. “Besides, I like geocaching and this is like it.” 

Weaver, now in her early 30s, also noted other perks.

“You constantly have to walk to hatch eggs,” she said. “Plus, a triumphant feeling in the game is getting a really high power level Pokémon.”

That means that Pokémon’s stats are higher and more powerful for battle. 

Kelley said she plans to host another Pokemon walk in the future.