Lyndsay Rusk has met more people from the Cowichan Valley and learned more about Duncan’s iconic landmarks in just three days than many people would in a year.
Rusk, an acupuncturist with Harmony Yoga Centre who has just recently moved to Duncan, is one of many people in the city, and around the world, who have become enamoured with the new Pokemon Go sensation.
Pokemon Go is a location-based, reality-mobile game that is played on people’s personal-electronic devices, like smartphones.
Making use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices, the game allows players to capture, battle and train virtual creatures, called Pokemon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world.
The video game, which requires a lot of physical activity, sends players into the “real world” to search for the mythical digital-pocket Pokemon monsters who appear onscreen when users hold up their smartphones in various locations at certain times of the day.
Just released in July, the free Pokemon Go app has quickly become one of the most used smart-device apps ever, being downloaded by more than 40-million people worldwide so far.
Rusk said her smartphone has led her to several iconic monuments in Duncan, including Duncan City Hall, the Canada Post office on Ingram Street and some of the totem poles downtown, to capture various Pokemon characters.
She said she has met a lot of other people on the same mission all over the city.
Individuals and groups gathering at some of the landmarks and monuments with their cellphones held out have become a common sight in Duncan, and communities everywhere, in recent weeks.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing board games and sports with others, but I’ve never been much of a video-game player,” Rusk said after “capturing” some Pokemon from the post office.
“My husband, who is now 30, has been a big Pokemon fan since he was a kid and I was making fun of him at first when he started playing Pokemon Go. But it’s a lot of fun and it gets people outside and moving around, so I started playing the game as well.”
In fact, those aged 18 to 34 are by far the most likely to have downloaded the app, followed by those aged 13 to 17, according to a recent poll by Ipsos Reid.
John O’Rielly and his six-year-old daughter Sherry were among the many people, covering many age groups, who were drawn to the post office one recent sunny afternoon with their smartphones.
“My daughter wanted to play the game, and I’m actually having fun as well wandering through downtown,” he said.
“As long as it gets Sherry outside and exercising, I think it’s great.”
But the increasing popularity of the game is causing problems in some jurisdictions, with reports of accidents, trespassing on private property and people just being a public nuisance for law enforcement officials.
Sgt. Chris Swain, from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, said there has been no specific incident in the Valley related to Pokemon Go so far.
But he said the police are raising concerns about some of the activities of local game players.
Swain reminded people against playing the game on a smartphone and driving, which is considered distracted driving. People are subject to a $543 fine for their first offence.
He also said many players are so absorbed with the game that they are not paying attention to where they are walking, which can lead to accidents and other dangerous situations.
Swain said drivers should remember to park properly when they reach their destinations while playing Pokemon Go, and play the game with partners, particularly at night when you don’t know who you will run into at the rendezvous points.
“It’s really all about using your common sense,” Swain said.
“Keep safety foremost in your mind and pay attention to what’s going on around you.”
Rusk encouraged everyone to participate in the game, and to do it safely.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said.
“I’m not even sure what the object of the game is, or even how to win it. I’m just playing it for the fun of the ride.”