It’s only been available in the U.S. since Thursday, but Pokémon Go has officially become a viral phenomenon.
If you’re curious why it seems everyone is talking about Pokémon in recent days, let’s catch up. Last week, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company launched Pokémon Go, a game for iPhones and Android smartphones featuring the classic video game franchise where players catch and train special creatures called Pokémon.
What makes the game special is its use of augmented reality, where Pokémon will appear as if they’ve been spotted in the real world. The game presents a map powered by GPS, using real-world locations to spot Pokémon and collect items. When you find one, the game opens up your smartphone’s camera, giving you a view of Pokémon in the real world. Once you spot them, you flick a Poké Ball toward the creature to capture it.
Along with collecting Pokémon, there are Poké Stops pinned to real locations where players can grab items. It could be a grocery store, or a landmark, or even a sign that can serve as a Poké Stop. Once Pokémon are trained, players take them to gyms to battle other Pokémon.
Looking back at how players consumed Pokémon Go this weekend, here are five things we learned:
1. Players are realizing they’ve been exercising this whole time.
Ironic that a pastime chastised for keeping people indoors is responsible for pushing players to explore their outdoor surroundings. Because the mobile game requires players to search nearby parks or neighborhoods for Pokémon, people are walking. A lot.
“This is the first time I’ve gone out and walked for hours in a long time,” said Joshua Loughren, 16, who spent his Sunday at NorthPark Center mall in Dallas catching Pokémon. “That’s good.”
Players on Twitter noticed similar unintended health benefits from Pokémon Go.
2. There really are Pokémon EVERYWHERE.
Yes, bathrooms seem to be popular places to “catch ’em all.” And they also enjoy hitting the club. Strip clubs, even. Pokemon really like to party, apparently.
3. You are going to look really weird searching for Pokémon.
This happened over the weekend while seeking out Poké Stops at a local mall. There may be a random landmark players will seek out using the game’s GPS, then you stop and either catch some creatures or pick up your items. That means you’re likely wandering around a spot for the Stop, then maybe grabbing a Pokémon or two. Now picture doing this in front of a store, or near someone’s house. Yeah, that won’t get awkward. Speaking of Poké Stops …
4. There are some really interesting Poké Stops and Gyms.
Churches are really popular places, for some reason. Malls, too. There’s also the occasional house connected to the Pokémon universe. The house of Boon Sheridan, a Massachusetts resident, has been designated a Pokémon Gym.
Then there are some just really strange places: an abandoned hot dog stand, a statue named “St. That Guy” and Disco Bro.
5. Catching Pokémon might be a little dangerous.
Finding Pikachu is great. Finding a dead body while searching for Pokémon? Not so great. According to ABC affiliate KTRK in Wyoming, player Shayla Wiggins discovered a body lying face down in a river while seeking out creatures.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, four teens were arrested for allegedly taking advantage of Poké Stops to rob players. “The way we believe (the app) was used is you can add a beacon to a Pokéstop to lure more players,” said the O’Fallon, Mo., police department in a post on Facebook.
Also, if your Poke Stop happens to be at a police station, you might want to use a little caution. “We have had some people playing the game behind the PD, in the dark, popping out of bushes, etc.,” reads a Facebook post from the police department in Duvall, Wash. “This is high on our list of things that are not cool right now.”
Contributing: Trevor Hughes in Dallas
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.