Pokémon take over college campuses

New augmented reality game sparks some safety concerns

Colleges are dealing with a new infestation: Pokémon.

The "pocket monsters" showed up last week when Nintendo launched its augmented reality mobile phone game app, Pokémon Go.

The original Pokémon games, cartoons, and movies came out in the 1990s and were an international hit with Millennials. Those now-grown-up '90s kids have nostalgically latched on to the latest game.

The game layers a fantastical world over the real one, seen through a mobile phone. So as players wander their physical surroundings, they can explore the animated Pokémon world, too.

What a beautiful day to play! For those in the know, the #lakefill is a veritable goldmine. #PokemonGo

A photo posted by Northwestern University (@northwesternu) on

As players walk around, Pokémon appear and players try to catch them. "PokéStops," where players can load up on supplies, are generally attached to real-life landmarks—of which campuses have a lot.

Derek Hennen, a Ph.D. student in entomology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, who credits the Pokémon card game for sparking his interest in biology and eventual field of study, says this new game is a good thing so far. People who hang around inside are getting outdoors and exploring campus.

Bring gamification to your student affairs programs

"Students are really walking around campus a lot more," says Samantha Jackson, a coordinator for academic-advising services at the University of Central Florida (UCF). "I feel like they’re ironically becoming more aware of things that are on campus because they have to walk to these different PokéStops."

However, the game has created a bit of a safety issue on-campus and off. On Saturday, someone phoned the University of Wisconsin at Madison because a group of cyclists were weaving through traffic with their heads in their phones. The caller's theory: Pokémon Go.

Players have also been targets of crime. On Tuesday, three people on the University of Maryland College Park campus were robbed while playing the game.  

How can a smartphone help improve student success?

At UCF, students wander campus into the early morning playing, says Courtney Gilmartin, assistant director and public-information officer for campus police. "I talked to a student on Friday who said he was here until 3 a.m.," she says.

The police reminded students of the free shuttle service and to stay safe while playing.

(Sandoval, Chronicle of Higher Education, 7/12; CBS SF, 7/11; Morse/Shapiro, Washington Post, 7/13).

Students may find your tutoring center while on the hunt for Pikachu. But why leave it up to chance?


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