Since playing a mobile game that combines real-world and virtual elements, Acacia Gillette says she’s walked about 18 miles in five days.
“’Pokemon Go’ is really addictive,” said Gillette, who grew up in Kilauea and is an avid “Pokemon Go” player. “It’s competitive, it’s friendly, it encourages people to get out of the house, and it’s fun for everybody. My kids have so much fun chasing Pokemon.”
The mobile application uses a player’s GPS location and augments real world elements into the game. So if you’re walking around your neighborhood with your mobile device, a map of that area — roads, buildings, bodies of water — will appear in the game.
“When you look at your phone, it feels like you’re really in the game,” Gillette said. “It’s augmented reality, so you see it through your phone.”
The goal of the game to become a Pokemon master by catching Pokemon (pocket monster) and playing against other players at designated spots to gain experience. Unlike traditional video games that allows users to strictly play in a virtual world, “Pokemon Go” forces players to get up and explore their surroundings.
“The game directly rewards you for walking,” said Ariel Lothlorien, a Kilauea resident and lead programmer for UberSoft Technologies. “A lot of people feel they should be exercising, but they don’t. This, they find themselves walking miles.”
Lothlorien said he’s walked at least 11 miles since the game’s release on July 6.
Gillette said the game has encouraged her and her three children to be more active.
“I’ll pack them in the stroller, throw them on my back and I’ll walk with them,” she said. “It’s a fun opportunity for our family to move around.”
According to app store intelligence firm SensorTower, “Pokemon Go” is about to pass 15 million installations on the App Store and Google Play. Additionally, the firm said users are spending more time on the app than on the popular social media network Facebook.
Lothlorien said the mainstream appeal of the Pokemon brand — while being one of first augmented reality games on the market — is a big draw for players.
“Pokemon is something almost everyone has exposure to at some level or another,” Lothlorien said.
Jansen Pascua, an Eleele resident and an administrator for the Facebook page “Mobile Pokemon Center: Hawaii,” said some of the popular spots on Kauai include areas in Lihue and Kapaa. One spot in particular is by the Kauai Marriot in Lihue.
Another spot is by Kukui Grove Center, where Pascua and his two friends, Austin Tacsiat and Chesterel Fernendez, were immersed in the game Wednesday, heads bobbing up and down, focusing on both the game and making sure they didn’t collide with other people and objects.
“I was just sucked into it — just the fact you get to explore more and run around the island is great,” Pascua said.
Pascua said the game also adds a social element of play. He said at least 30 of his friends play the game.
“I don’t really go out much. Much of my time, I’m spending indoors,” he said. “When ‘Pokemon Go’ came out, all my friends were getting on it, so I’m like, ‘Maybe I’ll join them on this, too.’ ”
Since players become immersed in gameplay, the app recommends player to be aware of their surroundings to avoid injury.
Authorities say two men who were playing “Pokemon Go” fell off an ocean bluff in Southern California.
Encinitas firefighters say the men climbed through a fence Wednesday afternoon while playing the digital-monster cellphone game.
One man fell about 50 feet down the side of the unstable bluff and the other fell about 90 feet to the beach. They were taken to a hospital with moderate injuries.
There have been reports of distracted players walking into trees, playing while driving, and even being robbed by crooks who lured players with digital goodies.
In Anaheim, police said a player was stabbed Wednesday by a group of men in a park.
While no incidents have occurred on Kauai that appear to be related to the app, police across the nation have reported traffic collisions and other safety concerns as a result of the game, said Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry.
“Motorists and pedestrians must follow the rules of the road at all times,” Perry said. “Don’t allow the game to distract you while driving or when crossing the street. Stay away from dangerous situations and be responsible.”
On its Facebook page, the Pacific Missile Range Facility said players “are not authorized for use in restricted areas aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam or Pacific Missile Range Facility or near entry control points (gates).”
Pascua recommends players explore in groups.
“There’s safety in numbers,” he said. “Travel with friends, so you can all watch out for each other.”
Lothlorien said it may be tempting to play while driving because Pokemon may appear more often.
Gillette advised getting a designated driver and playing as a passenger.
“I can hold two phones while my husband is driving, and I can play his and mine at the same time,” she said. “There’s no excuse to be driving around and doing that. It’s just too dangerous.”