Pokemon Paras

Catch ’em all at CWRU: Campus is Pokémon Go hot spot

As students move back into residence halls beginning this weekend, they may notice some unique new visitors on the quads or near their favorite hangouts.

A Poliwag near Tinkham Veale University Center.

Whether or not you’ve played the game, you’ve likely at least heard of Pokémon Go, and you might have even stumbled across someone actively searching out Pokémon, or “pocket monsters,” on campus.

Since its early July release, Case Western Reserve University has emerged as an area hot spot for the game, giving users the chance to find the beloved creatures in the real world.

“I’ve heard [CWRU is] an exciting place to play,” Marc Buchner, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said. “There are certain places that people go to that have a lot of activity. I think it’s great on a college campus. People very often can stay limited to their dorm rooms, and I’m a big believer that you need to get out—not only to play Pokémon Go, but to get engaged in other activities.”

What makes CWRU such a good place to play is that campus is rich in historical markers, art installations and local landmarks, all of which are popular spots for “PokéStops.”

PokéStops offer players items useful for catching Pokémon and, at times, become gathering spots for gamers to congregate. These PokéStops appear seemingly every few steps on campus.

PokéStops are all around campus, marking such popular spots as Merging and Spitball.
PokéStops are all around campus, marking such popular spots as Merging and Spitball.

If you’re not familiar with the game, here’s a quick breakdown. The game builds upon the success of the Pokémon media franchise, which emerged in the mid-1990s and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The franchise included video games, playing cards and cartoons.

In the game, humans, known as “Pokémon trainers,” search for and catch characters, which they then train for battle.

Pokémon Go brings the popular game into reality by giving users the chance to find Pokémon in their surroundings.

So while you might not see it, there could be a Pokémon—perhaps a Charmander or Pikachu—right next to you. That’s where the augmented reality comes in.

The game takes a map of the surrounding world, marking streets, building outlines and paths—sometimes with striking detail—and populates the area with aspects of the game.

When the game is open, a user will see a digital rendition of their surroundings, dotted with PokéStops and gyms (where users can battle their Pokémon).

If the user has the proper settings activated when trying to catch a Pokémon, the game will access the device’s camera and place the creature in a live image of the real world—meaning one of the game’s characters could be sitting on your desk or next to you on your way to class.

But Buchner, also associate dean of academics at Case School of Engineering, considered the augmented reality aspect of the game to be a minor detail, and likely not much of a contributor to its success.

Pokemon Drowzee on Case Quad
Pokemon Drowzee on Case Quad

“There are tremendous opportunities that are available in augmented reality for games,” he said. “It’s just my sense is that’s not one of the essential winning aspects of Pokémon Go.”

Where the game succeeds, according to Buchner, is the sense of adventure it instills in players.

Because this new iteration of the game calls upon users to get out and moving in order to find Pokémon, it’s gotten many people to explore their neighborhoods.

With first-year students already beginning to arrive on campus and returning students coming back in just a few days, there’s likely to be an uptick in people playing Pokémon Go on campus—and learning more about CWRU.