Pokémon Go comes to Wilton

Rather than spending their summer indoors playing electronic games, swarms of kids are roaming the sidewalks of Wilton, trying to catch little monsters like Squirtle, Pidgey and Venonat. The little monsters are Pokémon and the game the kids are playing is Pokémon Go.

It is getting them up off their sofas and discovering the town they call home, but actually may not know very well.

One of the hottest spots in town is Wilton Library, which has three PokéStops and a gym.

On Thursday afternoon, three YMCA counselors-in-training — Connor, Jack and Josh — sat in the library gallery studying their phones.

“I like it a lot,” Connor, 15, said of the game. “I get to meet friends and be more social. It gives me something to do over the summer.”

Jack, 14, said he usually doesn’t come in to town, but Pokémon Go has changed that. “I walk around and get exercise,” he said. “I’ve found new parts of town I didn’t know about.”

The game, he pointed out, “uses all the landmarks and you have to go around to find things. … I never knew about  the veterans memorial. It’s cool, it shows all the history.”

Explaining that a mounted native American statue in the library is another PokéStop, he said, “I never knew it was there.”

Josh, also 14, said he never walked to town before.

“Most people stay inside,” Jack said. “Now they can go outside.”

Although none of them were born when Pokémon cards came out in the mid-90s, Connor said, “everybody plays Pokémon.”

They seemed to feel the most popular time to play is from 1 to 6 in Wilton Center.

While these three were inside, a group of eight boys, 12 and 13 years old, were outside the library playing the game.

Parker admitted the game was “addicting.”

Tyler echoed Connor’s feeling that “you get to do things besides sit in your house.”

For Sean, “it’s a good workout. You gotta catch the Pokémon and then have to walk and find another.”

They claimed they play for “hours to days.”

“I play all day and all night,” said Sean.

Will was the loner of the crowd who doesn’t play. “I don’t have service,” he said. “I never got into it.”

Pokémon Go is an app that may be downloaded onto a smartphone. To play, you create an avatar who walks where you walk. The game uses Google Earth technology to create a digital Pokémon universe within the real world. A player walks until a Pokémon appears and then tries to capture it with a Poké Ball, which is superimposed over the scene by their phone’s camera.

Pokémon can crop up anywhere, such as at the sculpture Nurture on Hubbard Road, but PokéStops are different. They are locations where players can collect things like Poké Balls to help them capture Pokémon.

Pokémon players are called trainers, who, after collecting their Pokémon, train them for battles, which take place at locations called gyms. Trainers who want to add a competitive edge can join one of three arbitrary teams: yellow, blue or red. Teams battle their Pokémon to “capture” a gym.

Because it has three PokéStops and a gym, the library is Pokémon central.

“We have non-stop traffic at the library,” said Shayna Simpson, assistant director of the Children’s Library, and the library’s unofficial Pokémon expert.

“I’ve definitely noticed the gym is constantly changing teams,” said Simpson, who can watch the game unfold on her phone. “On Wednesday I watched it change ownership 12 times in two hours.”

In the Children’s Library she has mounted a display where kids can show their allegiance to a team and what Pokémons they have captured. Originally, the yellow team was more popular, she said, but now power has shifted to the red team.

Players have also used lures at the library, think of it as digital bait, to bring more Pokémon to a spot.

At age 27, Simpson is a veteran Pokémon player herself, having been a fan of the original cards, so she may have a more enthusiastic view of the game than others.

“I’ve been seeing a lot that it’s getting people out of the house,” she said. “Even if they are looking at their screen, parks are getting way more usage. I think it’s a super-big positive.”

Wilton police report no accidents or complaints thus far arising from Pokémon play, but there have been reports of personal disasters around the country.

Connecticut State Police have issued a list of do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t play while driving;

  • Don’t trespass, i.e scaling fences, parachuting, tunneling, etc.;

  • Don’t fight/argue with other players;

  • Don’t be lured into places you’re not familiar with.

  • Among the do’s are:

  • Have fun! Get out and explore your communities;

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings! Traffic does not stop for these little guys.

  • Make yourself visible when playing at night;

  • Play with friends/family.