Pokemon GO has quickly proven to be a cultural phenomenon both globally and locally in the San Gabriel Valley. A crucial element of the augmented reality game involves players visiting real-life locations designated as Pokestops to collect items and Gyms to battle fellow players. Some San Gabriel Valley organizations and businesses have enthusiastically embraced this aspect of the game, while others are more tepid in response.
To small businesses in the Valley like Vroman’s Bookstore, Pokemon GO can be a welcome enhancement to the businesses themselves and the Valley community.
“We are currently seeing it as a benefit,” says Digital Media Coordinator Jess Dickieson. “We’re seeing people that would have never discovered small businesses discovering them because they are out and about. They are venturing into parts of town that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to check out.”
Located in Pasadena, Vroman’s is Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore and is designated as a Pokestop in the game, so Vroman’s is signaling players to visit the shop by placing lures in the game. Lures can be placed at Gyms and Pokestops to attract more Pokemon to the particular location. According to Dickieson, players have already found numerous Pokemon in the bookstore, though Vroman’s also hopes that players also come to view Vroman’s as “a place of community and good reads.”
Other San Gabriel Valley institutions such as the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens also consider Pokemon GO a benefit to the community.
The Huntington recently made a blog post highlighting its four Gyms and mentioning the more than 60 designated Pokestops on property. Vice President for Communications Susan Turner-Lowe noted that, since The Huntington is “a gathering place for the public”, Pokemon GO is a “terrific” way for players to explore The Huntington and other nonprofit institutions in the San Gabriel Valley. While there may be some concern for safety due to disruptive players, Turner-Lowe assures that security placed throughout The Huntington ensure that visitors do not climb on anything in the garden or damage collection items.
To expand the scope slightly beyond the San Gabriel Valley, the Metro transit system (which services the Valley) features many Pokestops and Gyms along its transit lines and in stations throughout Los Angeles County.
On July 12, Metro announced the creation of the Twitter account @PokemonGOMetro to assist players with the game and allow them to explain how they “engage their communities in new ways.” According to Metro spokesperson Anna Chen, Pokemon GO Metro aims to fulfill these objectives by providing information on the whereabouts of Pokemon, Pokestops, Gyms, and other tips about the game, particularly through which Metro service lines take riders to their destination of interest. Indeed, another goal for Pokemon GO Metro is to “increase ridership…or try active transportation” while staying alert and safe using Metro services.
On the other hand, while Pokemon GO appears to have a unanimous positive reception from San Gabriel Valley institutions, there are at least a few places like the San Gabriel Mission where the game is not as well-received.
San Gabriel Mission is designated as a Gym in the game, and Business Manager Al Sanchez is perplexed as to how the Mission was chosen. He would prefer the “fad” to go away, but added that the Mission is happy to observe players who walk around the Mission and the adjacent Plaza Park. “Our hope is that no one gets hurt or worse robbed or scammed,” Sanchez says.
In the meantime, Sanchez says that the Mission “would definitely be interested” in finding a way to generate some money while the game is popular.
Featured image by Eduardo Woo (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edowoo/28052812062) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons