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Catching 'Em All at NYPL with Pokémon GO

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Pokemon GO

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time plastered to my Game Boy screen playing Pokémon Red and Blue (and Green, Yellow, Silver, Gold—the list went on). I was obsessed with the idea that a kid (namely, Ash Ketchum) could leave home to travel the world finding Pokémon, making friends, and battling for glory. When not playing the game, I was watching the show or trading Pokémon cards with friends and making everyone folded paper pokéballs that would open to reveal a terrible drawing of whatever Pokémon I liked at the moment. We’d run around my backyard yelling seemingly inane things like, “I CHOOSE YOU, CHARIZARD!”, pretending we were trainers on our own adventures.

So if people are getting a little too excited talking about the newest Pokémon game, Pokémon GO, now you know why: it is basically our childhood dreams realized.

If you’re completely lost at this point, let me back it up and explain. In the simplest terms, Pokémon are creatures with assorted special powers and attacks, and in the game, you are their trainer. Your goal is to “catch 'em all” (using a device called a pokéball), train them to be more powerful, and win battles against other trainers and their Pokémon for money, badges, and experience points. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the gist. You can watch the TV show's opening theme for a classic montage explanation.

Pokémon GO is the latest game in the Pokémon franchise, and it’s a completely new take on the classic. Available as a free(ish) app on iOS and Android, the game merges Pokémon with the real world. You have to physically walk around your neighborhood to find Pokémon and supplies in order to play the game. On your screen is a Google Maps-like layout, and your phone’s GPS keeps your character moving in real time around this map. To gather supplies, you have to walk to PokeStops (the cubes on the map). To catch a Pokémon, you must find one nearby and skillfully throw a pokéball at it - your phone’s camera is used to show the Pokémon in your actual surroundings, sometimes with comedic results. A Spearow appeared on my desk this morning!

What’s really amazing about this game, beyond the childhood dream aspect, is that it encourages both exercise and an awareness of the tiny, missable, beautiful details in the world around you. In my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, PokeStops included a statue of a lion I’ve never seen in the five years I’ve lived there, a pretty detail on a building facade, a mural of a Hindu goddess, a local ice cream shop, and a historical map. Some include a bit of historical information, some are just the name of the landmark.

So I was very excited to get to work the next day and see what would be featured at NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Sure enough, there were quite a few PokeStops around, including statues at our main branch, the Picture Collection at Mid-Manhattan Library (on the 3rd floor), our Gutenburg Bible, and a few other neat locations. If you visit any of NYPL's branches while playing the game, be sure to post your fun shots and tag @nypl on Twitter and Instagram!

For whatever reason, it seems Zubats are everywhere at NYPL. For those of us who have played the Game Boy version and walked through a cave without repellent, this is an unpleasant flashback. But it's still fun for photos.

A wild Zubat appears on our front steps!
A wild Zubat appears on our book cart!
A wild Zubat appears in our vintage phone booths!

If you manage to visit NYPL while playing Pokémon GO, note that the Gutenburg Bible and the bronze sculpture are both located on the third floor.

Behind NYPL is Bryant Park, which houses a gym (at the fountain) and a much larger variety of Pokemon. I look forward to seeing how this game gets people outside seeing their neighborhoods in a whole new way.

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Field trips

Could this be used to teach natural science?

I don't personally have ideas

I don't personally have ideas to that effect, but the game does encourage being outside and pokemon do appear everywhere and correspond with the environment around them, so perhaps you could have students try to catch pokemon in gardens, parks, etc while teaching about the habitat?

Pokémon GO

How do I make my library a stop or use lures in the Pokémon GO game?

You can submit a request to

You can submit a request to make your library a stop through the game's creator, Niantic, though the request list is quite long. And to use a lure, select a Pokestop in the game and click the small pink symbol that appears under the name of the stop - if you have lures, this is where you use them!

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