ROANOKE (WSLS10) - It's been 20 years since the Pokémon craze had kids and adults worldwide lining up to buy the trading cards. Now the hype is back, but this time it's for the Pokémon Go App.
The game allows players to walk around real neighborhoods, looking for virtual Pokémon game characters on their smartphones. They explore their communities, capturing Pokémon that appear on their phones as they move about.
Each community has dozens of historical landmarks and significant features, designated as PokéStops. The Hotel Roanoke, Texas Tavern and the Roanoke Valley War Memorial are just a few of the stops in Downtown Roanoke. Other areas, like Grandin, have even more-- getting players to visit communities, and local shops and restaurants, they wouldn't know about otherwise.
"With Grandin Village being here, we're two steps away from a restaurant," says Fe Nguyen, the Community Manager at the Grandin CoLab. "That would be really helpful for restaurants, especially since this is a social thing that people are going to want to do with their friends."
It's a virtual game that could have a real life positive impact on these communities.
But it's not all good news-- players have also been put in some dangerous situations as well. Last week, a 19-year-old in Wyoming found a dead body in a river while searching for water-themed Pokémon characters. An armed robbery in Missouri is being blamed on the game, after players were lured straight to the people who robbed them in search of a Pokémon Gym.
Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is warning players to keep their eyes up and their Poke Balls down, not playing the game while driving.
Even though the game is virtual, it's also leading to some real life injuries-- and that's one of the biggest issues we're seeing here in our area. Players aren't watching where they're going when they're staring at their screens searching for the characters, so they're falling off skateboards, tripping over curbs and walking right into trees.
Roanoke City Police say they've seen some people cross the street without even looking up from their phones, so they're reminding everyone to pay attention. It's also important to use the buddy system, not exploring new areas alone. Police also warn to be cautious, don't let anyone use the app to lure you into an area you're not familiar with.
At least one Sheriff's Office is reminding people not to trespass to collect the characters, you can visit the PokéStops and catch characters without going on the property.
But for those who are playing safely, they're finding the game is teaching them more about their community. A pastime that was once ridiculed for keeping people indoors is now pushing players outside to explore their communities and beyond.
"You can only catch certain Pokémon in certain areas," says Nguyen. "To catch some, you might have to go up a mountain. My friends are going to do that on Sunday, Take Pokémon Go and see what's up there."
In the Roanoke Valley, there are hundreds of historic landmarks included in the game. Here's a map WSLS 10 has built that has 228 PokéStops and 46 gyms in the Roanoke area.
While this map does haves a lot of gyms and PokéStops, it's still not complete.
Do you know a spot we missed? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can add it to our map!