SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Perhaps you’ve noticed a lot of people out and about the past few days, gathering in public places or walking around town seeming looking for things while they also stare down at their phones (more than usual). Well, that’s because it appears Pokémon fever has hit South Plainfield.

The Pokémon Go app launched July 7, and, over the past week, smartphone users have been gathering, sometimes dozens at a time, at places like Spring Lake Park, Monument Park and even the Community Pool to ‘catch’ as many of the game’s hundreds of virtual Japanese cartoon characters as possible.

Pokémon Go is a location-based augmented reality game for iOS and Android smartphone users. It is available as a free download from the Apple Store and Google Play (in-app purchased are available for those looking for additional gameplay items). The game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon – such as Pikachu, Blastoise, Charizard and slew of hundreds of others – who ‘appear’ throughout the real world.

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“I downloaded it Sunday and I’m addicted,” said 22-year-old Anthony Quadrel, adding that he has been up and around town past midnight the past few nights trying to catch as many Pokémon as he can. “Everybody is trying to help one another catch Pokémon. It is definitely a game you have to try.”

Upon downloading the app, users create a personalized avatar that is then displayed at the player’s current location along with a map of the player’s immediate surrounding; the app runs off the phone’s GPS, camera and clock.

Through the use of augmented reality, Pokémon will randomly 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 a Pokémon is located, the game opens up your smartphone's camera, giving you a view of Pokémon in the real world.

Basically, according to Quadrel, “You have your virtual self in a virtual world catching Pokémon.”

To catch a Pokémon, one must throw PokéBalls, which are free but can only by can be collected at specific locations within the community known as PokeStops. PokeStops have been found throughout South Plainfield, with Monument Park and the area specifically surrounding the helicopter reported to be one of the best spots in town.

“Since the game came out, the park has been packed,” said Quadrel. “So many people are there…There are at least six PokeSpots there.”

Spring Lake Park and the Community Pool have also been reported as good places in town to track down the virtual Pokémon characters. And Pokémon aren’t just located in open, public areas. Users told TAPinto South Plainfield that they have found them in their homes, on their back patios, and in their cars as well as at the supermarket, parking lots, and at the mall.

“All you have to do walk around in this virtual world. Pokémon are popping up all over the place,” said Quadrel.

Pat Scaglione, 20, added, “The game is awesome and what makes it fun is that you have to walk around and explore different places to find new Pokémon.”

Harrison Anesh, 14, has been playing the game since the day the game came out and even made his mom, Kim, pull over at Metro Park the other night to ‘catch’ one. For the most part, he’s found many around town, including near the rescue squad and at the park.

“I’ve seen lots of people from school and everyone is outside playing the game,” Harrison said. “It’s fun that it incorporates the real work into its game play… everyone is working together to catch the Pokémon. 

In addition to PokeBalls, users can collect other valuable game playing items, such as berries, potions, and eggs, which can all be used in some way to aid in a player’s efforts to catch a Pokémon. Locating these items, specifically the eggs, seems to be getting players up and active. The Eggs, for example, require the player to walk a required distance – 2 kilometers (the equivalent of over 1 mile), 5 kilometers or even 10 kilometers – set forth by the game. Once the distance is met, the egg containing a Pokémon will hatch.  

“The further you walk and the more active you are, the faster the egg will hatch,” said Quadrel.

Players are searching high and low – literally – and all about town looking for Pokémon. As opposed to sitting inside in front of television, computer, game system or mobile device, users are instead – and perhaps without even realizing it – being more active just by playing the game.

“I am getting a lot of exercise playing this game,” said Anthony. “I come home from work, jump on my long board and have been catching them all over town. You can find them everywhere and anywhere.”

Wyatt Gerber, 14, who was lucky to find a couple of Pokémon at Adventure Aquarium in Camden as well as in a school parking lot, said, “The game definitely has me more active and encourages you to physically walk around as well as talk to people to learn about where they have found Pokémon. I feel like it is a great way to get out of the house and get some experience.”

In addition to getting people out and moving, the game, in the short week it has been around, also appears to be increasing camaraderie among community members and players of all ages. At Monument Park Tuesday night, children and parents, couples, and groups of preteens and teens were all hanging out with the same goal – to catch a Pokémon.

According to Quadrel, everyone is looking to catch a Pokémon but those playing the game are eager to help others. “One person can find a Pokémon and then anybody can catch it. Everyone is being really friendly. People are asking one another where they are, helping each other,” he said. “Everyone is playing this game. From little kids to adults.”

It is important to note, that Pokémon Go uses one's location and users, especially juveniles, should be careful where they go and avoid meeting with strangers. Players should always be aware of their surroundings – staying clear of roadways, streams and train tracks – and cautious of moving vehicles and other hazards. Additionally, the game should never be played while driving or operating other types of machinery and trespassing on private property is prohibited.

“It is great seeing people out and about, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings,” said South Plainfield Police Chief James Parker. “There have been reports of people staring at their phones and walking into the street. We do not want to see good clean fun end in tragedy.”

TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at www.TAPinto.net/enews and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SouthPlainfieldTAP/ and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.