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Riverside turns into 'Poké-stop' central

Park is packed with people playing augmented reality game
By Mike Youds
July 22, 2016 10:38 A.M.
Jesse Varty demonstrates Pokémon Go appeal in Riverside Park.

There may be another up side to the Pokémon Go craze — Pokémon Go tourism.

Even before the release of the location-based, augmented reality game, Pokemon fans were reaching for their mobile devices and roaming about, hunting for “Pokestops.” They were there yet didn’t stand out among other device gazers the way they do now in hot spots such as Riverside Park.

To some, it’s a strange new social phenomenon. Suddenly, augmented reality is in their faces whether they like or not. To others, it’s just fun. By Wednesday, July 20, there were 30 million of the latter worldwide. That’s almost the equivalent of the population of Canada, avatars striding through the ether, and occasionally where they’re not wanted.

There are lots of up sides, though.

Over the past week, Riverside has become Pokémon Go central, with as many as 50-100 players roaming the park at any given time. Most often, they are concentrated at the east end of the park with the playing at its peak around 5 p.m.

Their gaze is usually transfixed on mobile device screens, but they’re happy to share their experience at this early stage in the new technology.

“I’ve been playing for two weeks, since before it came out in Canada,” said Stephen Yaretz, who was playing near the Uji Gardens. “It’s a childhood game. When I was eight years old, I used to run around with all my friends playing Pokemon. Now we’re enjoying playing our game again.”

At the opposite end of the park, three buddies are perched on a stone wall, each one gripping a mobile phone.

“We live in Revelstoke and came down to see if there were Pokémon around,” said one with an English accent. Rob Hiscock from the U.K., Zac Stephens from Australia and James Andrew from New Zealand are working at Revelstoke Mountain Resort and learned that Riverside Park is a Pokémon hot spot.

“I think it’s definitely nostalgic for us. We’re all ’90s kids who grew up watching Pokémon.”

They met a lot of new people during three hours of play Friday.

“I think a lot of people like it because it gets them out.” There’s no doubt it encourages healthy activity. “I’ve done over 70 km.”

“It’s got that element of just one more. You don’t even realize time is going by, really.”

A short distance away, Jesse Varty, 18, from Brock is playing, also equipped with skateboard and headphones.

“You’ve got to get all these Poké stops,” he explained with a quick demo.

“It’s quite the game,” Yaretz said. “It’s crazy what you can do. It brings a lot of kids out.”

Authorities are already taking precautions with the popularity of the game. For the Honda Celebration of Light, set to get underway Friday night, July 22, they are asking spectators to refrain from playing Pokémon Go since more than 100,000 people were expected to crowd streets and beaches.

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