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Pokémon Goes Outside: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Posted by Joey Smith and Frances Chiem at Jul 13, 2016 06:00 PM |
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While playing a video game may seem incompatible with enjoying Washington's great outdoors, the massively popular game could be just a new way to enjoy time on our trails.

Drowse at Deception Pass
You can play Pokemon Go anywhere that you've got cell service. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman

Unless you've been thru-hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail or just returned from a long trip in the Pasayten Wilderness, you know that Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm.

What is it and why should hikers care?

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play augmented reality game for mobile phones that actively pushes its players (known as trainers) outside, into a great wide world where Pikachus and Meowths rule the landscape. Take one step into any local park, and you will find swaths of families and adults (yes, adults) wandering about, pointing their phones at the ground in front of them and occasionally jumping with a restrained, kind of embarrassed, joy.

A new way to enjoy Washington's outdoors

While playing a video game may seem incompatible with enjoying Washington's great outdoors, it really could be just a new way to enjoy time on our trails. In fact, appreciation for the outdoors is baked into Pokémon's formula.

Everything about the Pokémon world reflects a coherent environmental philosophy," argues insect ecologist Adam Kranz in an article for Killscreen. "It acknowledges that humans—even industrial humans—are part of nature."

And while the game may get more play in urban environs, trainers can use cherished pokéballs on trail, too.

Yes! The Pokéverse knows few limits. In fact, the game has been engineered so that unique Pokémon are found in their “natural” surroundings. Thus, grass-type Pokémon are more often found in parks and rural areas, leaving the Pidgeys and Ratattas for the streets and sewers of the city. Similarly water-type Pokémon are often found at, you guessed it, aquatic environments like lakeshores and rivers. That means that you just might be able to find some nifty Pokémon friends at all trailheads with internet connectivity, so trainers hiking in the I-90 corridor might be in luck.

Trainers have already been spotted at Rattlesnake Ledge, Poo-Poo Point, and in Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail.

Tips for responsible play

  • Always be aware of your surroundings while you chase Pokémon! We don’t want you running into a tree or stumbling off a steep trail while you are chasing down that Growlithe!
  • Be respectful of both private property and historical sites around Washington.
  • Take a tip from National Parks superintendent, Jon Jarvis, and don't forget to look up at the natural beauty when you take your game into the parks or forests.
  • Practice Leave No Trace while you play. Don't trample vegetation, respect non-virtual wildlife and keep group size small (12 or fewer). And of course, don't leave any pokéballs littering the trail.

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