Pokemon Go: Bringing Elmhurst together

(photo by Stefan Carlson)

Pokémon Go, the free-to-play mobile game that soared to worldwide popularity upon its release in July, has landed in Elmhurst. Already, there’s a growing community of local players based on campus, and the semester hasn’t even started yet.

These players, the most dedicated of which refer to themselves as trainers, have strategically flocked to EC. Pokémon Go rewards players bonuses for being in close proximity to local landmarks, over 30 of which are located on campus. (See cam- pus map on pg.14 for specific examples.)

The resulting influx of visitors has caused quite the spectacle. At peak playing times, there are groups as large as 20 people walking through campus together, all of them intermittently looking down at their phones as they search for Pokémon.

Although some might think this fascination with cartoon creatures bizarre or a waste of time, the players adamantly disagree. To many local trainers, Pokémon Go is more than just a game. It’s a community-builder.

Pokémon Go is strengthening the relationship between the college and the larger community of Elmhurst according to Madiha Ahmed, an EC student ambassador, who has seen this aspect of the game first-hand.

“I always see kids [from] the neighborhood ride their bikes around the campus,” she said. “I also know of people that have come here late at night just to play the game so you’re [going to find] a lot of dedicated trainers around.”

One such dedicated trainer Frank Cesario, an undergrad at College of DuPage, ran into an old friend one night while playing on campus.

“It was nice to catch up with him over something we still have in common,” he said. “We used to play Pokémon together all the time when we were kids.”

Pokémon Go has done more for Cesario than to rekindle old relationships, it’s helped him make new ones.

“For people like me with social anxiety,” he added “Pokémon Go lets us go out and meet new people because we know everyone playing the game has a common interest.”

With the new semester on the way, it will be interesting to see how these newly-formed communities affect life on campus. But one thing’s for sure — if you want to make a friend this semester, or even become a part of the Pokémon Go community on campus for yourself, all you have to do is look for someone staring down at their phone and start talking to them about Pokémon. You might be pleasantly surprised by what happens when you team up with strangers while trying to catch ‘em all.