AS POKEMANIA sweeps the world, it’s turning gamers into travellers and redefining tourist attractions.
Pokemon Go involves finding and capturing virtual Pokemon characters at real life locations.
The game is forcing players to become tourists in their own cities, and beyond, pounding the pavement to clock up the required distance (at least 2km) to hatch their eggs, and it’s drawing their attention to local landmarks they may not have noticed before.
“We have helped users all around the world have fun, socialise, and get more fit as they play and explore,” Niantic chief executive John Hanke said in a blog post when Pokemon Go was released last week in the US, Australia and New Zealand.
These days at iconic tourist attractions around major cities, you’re as likely to find Pokemon hunters glued to their smartphones as you are to see tourists snapping selfies.
There’s no end to the lengths players are prepared to go to — like the ones kayaking into the middle of New Zealand’s Wellington Harbour to access a Pokemon gym.
The Google Maps integration has turned Pokemon Go into a bit of a city tour guide. Parks, memorials, shopping centres, churches and street art have been turned into a PokeStop, where players can pick up more Pokeballs and other game incentives.
In South Korea, would-be Pokemon Masters are flocking to the fishing village of Sokcho as it is the only place in the country where the game works.
However, some curious “landmarks” have made it into the app, with some raising eyebrows and others labelled downright inappropriate.
Pokestops located at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have prompted authorities to request that visitors refrain from “catching” Pokemon when they visit.
On the other hand, many cafes, businesses, tourist attractions and churches are welcoming Pokemon players with open arms.
And with the app yet to be rolled out beyond Australia, New Zealand and the US, it’s clear Pokemon inspired travel is about to become a huge industry.