Ashley DeWitt and Alyss Kovash walked about Prairie Outpost Park on Thursday afternoon, their heads bobbing up and down between the historic buildings and their smartphones.
Soon, one pointed to the west and they picked up the pace.
After all, they wanted to catch ‘em all. Pokémon that is.
The pair — two of hundreds in Dickinson and millions around the world — were playing the augmented reality video game “Pokémon Go,” a smartphone app that makes users leave their couches and head outside to play.
“It’s addicting,” Kovash said with a laugh.
The game has taken ahold of Dickinson’s gaming community. John Odermann with Badlands Comics and Games estimates hundreds around Dickinson are playing the game. He’s even has seen multiple people of all ages playing “Pokémon Go” in the evenings at certain locations around Dickinson, including Prairie Outpost Park and Dickinson State University.
“You’ll see clusters of teenage kids, college kids and adults just walking around because there’s so many Pokéstops at those two places,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
“Pokémon Go” is a variation on the popular Nintendo video game franchise “Pokémon” (short for Pocket Monsters) which hooked gamers and casual fans 20 years ago and spawned games in multiple formats, a TV show and movies.
The game uses the GPS in a player’s smartphone to place them on an actual map of the city they’re in and has them physically walk around the area to try and find “Pokémon” characters to “catch.”
Multiple Dickinson attractions — such as The Brew coffee shop, the Biesiot Activities Center, most churches and even Walmart — are either “Pokéstops” or “gyms,” which are digital arenas overlaid on the real locations. Players must actually go to these places in order to play the game.
Dickinson law enforcement and DSU security have had a crash course in the game since it debuted earlier this month.
But unlike other cities, where law enforcement have encountered issues with trespassing, Dickinson authorities say they’ve only had a few concerned citizens call in reports of teens and 20-somethings wandering around seemingly aimlessly outside of churches and in parks late at night.
Jack Schulz, director of security at DSU, said on a nice evening, as many as 50 “Pokémon Go” players can be found traversing the campus.
“We haven’t had any issues,” he said. “The only thing we ask them is when they’re driving, don’t be using it, because it’s like texting. Watch what you’re doing.”
Dickinson Police Capt. David Wilkie also urged players to be mindful that someone may be watching them while they’re “hunting” for Pokémon.
“Don’t be surprised if the police show up, because people (in Dickinson) are still a little leery of people doing strange things,” Wilkie said. “In a big city, people are used to seeing people doing weird things. But here in Dickinson, if people are sitting out in front of their house or in front of a business in the middle of the night, they tend to be more on the cautious side than not.”
One thing is for certain though — “Pokémon Go” is doing exactly what it aimed for.
It’s getting gamers off the couch and outside this summer.
DeWitt, a 26-year-old from Gladstone, said she has been playing some version of “Pokémon” since she was a child and owns the first set of “Pokémon” cards. She said she downloaded “Pokémon Go” immediately when she heard it had come out and said enjoys how interactive the game is.
“When you’re little, you’re like, oh I want to be this,” DeWitt said. “Now that it’s out, you’re like, wow, I can actually do this. It’s fun. It’s something to do to pass the time.”
She and Kovash, 19, said they walked from Villard Street to Museum Drive while playing the game Thursday and had more walking to do. Along the way, they met other “Pokémon Go” players.
“There were guys walking in the center of the road,” Kovash said with a laugh. “They’re like, ‘Are you collecting Pokémon? Have you found any?’”
Nathan Jones, a 25-year-old maintenance technician from Dickinson, said there’s a lot of nostalgia in playing the game.
“Growing up as a kid, it’s every little kid’s dream to play ‘Pokémon’ in the real world and now you have the ability to do so,” he said.
Jones said he has been all around Dickinson and even went to Bismarck to play “Pokémon Go.” He and a group of friends are even discussing a trip to Las Vegas in part because of the high volume of Pokéstops along The Strip.
Jones said he’s pleased with how socially interactive the game makes users be, as well as the positivity it brings.
“It gives a good reason to bring people together,” he said. “Most of the time it’s people sharing secrets, or little tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way. There’s a whole ’nother aspect of it.”
Odermann, who is also the head football coach at Trinity High School, called the game “a great opportunity for people to get outside and do some physical activity.”
He also believes the game could bring forth a change in how some video games are played.
“Nintendo, a couple years ago with the Wii, revolutionized gaming,” he said. “This may be another way they’re doing it. You’re not sitting on a couch anymore playing this game. You’re actually out walking around getting some physical exercise.”