The Hamptons is now attracting tourists and locals to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors for a totally new reason: to catch Pokémon.
Since the release of “Pokémon Go” July 6, millions of people around the world have downloaded the free mobile game. Some players—or “Pokémon Trainers” as the game likes to call them—never played Pokémon video games and card games before and never watched the related cartoon show growing up, but have joined the craze to play with friends. Now, in virtually every public area such as parks, shopping centers and school campuses, groups or individual players can be found scouring the area for Pokémon on their smartphones.
For those who played other Pokémon video games in the past—or still do—the gameplay of “Pokémon Go” is familiar. The player catches creatures with a Poké Ball and trains them to become stronger and eventually reach their fully evolved form. They defeat gym leaders to advance in the game, and collect items that strengthen both them and their Pokémon.
“Pokémon Go” incorporates a digital map and the player’s smartphone camera to mesh the virtual world with the physical world. Pokémon appear on screen as if they are on the grass or sidewalk next to the player. With this new technology, players are able to roam the same streets in real life as their character does in the game. They can also find gyms and Poké Stops at actual nearby landmarks to battle with their Pokémon or collect items. Once players reach level five, they must join one of three teams—Mystic, Instinct or Valor—and compete with other teams to control gyms by having the most powerful Pokémon.
Southampton Village, which is already teeming with locals and summer tourists, has become a popular destination for players seeking better Pokémon and more experience points. Agawam Park is an especially hot spot for users because the veteran memorial fountain in the center of the park is a gym.
“I’m trying to take the gym right now,” said Will Banks, a 20-year-old local who was playing the game in the park with his older sister. “I work nearby, so I’m always around. I actually had the gym yesterday.”
A few feet away, 8-year-old Jake Nichols was playing “Pokémon Go” on his mother’s phone. His family was visiting from Texas and they liked that the game encouraged them to explore new places such as historical sites.
Some other examples of gyms in Southampton include Pottery Barn, the whipping post at the Southampton Historical Museum, the North End graveyard and the Basilica Parish.
Because key locations in the game are spread out, three teenage boys have been using their bicycles to efficiently navigate the village. Jack Zaloga, Diego Trujillo and Nick Castillo ride between Southampton gyms to capture them for Team Mystic—Jack and Diego made Nick start the game over because he was initially on Team Valor.
“I own this gym,” Jack said while pointing to the Southampton Historical Museum. “I own three gyms total.”
In Westhampton Beach, a mother and her teenage son from East Quogue paced the sidewalks looking for new Pokémon to catch. “I got the game because it’s something fun to do with my two sons,” Sadie Gurley said. “And I like catching the Pokémon. With the camera, it feels like I’m actually catching them.”
There is even reason to believe that Justin Bieber has joined the bandwagon during his stay in Bridgehampton this month. On Thursday, July 14, he was spotted looking at his phone while standing at the war memorial located in the middle of a four-way intersection on Main Street; it’s a Poké Stop.