Pokémon Go comes to town

By Rachel Cohn
HLN Correspondent
On Sept. 28, 1998, a little-known pair of games called Pokémon Red and Blue were released in the United States after seeing commercial success in their home country of Japan. And from there, the game series took the U.S. by storm, from currency for school children of the late 1990s as a card game to a popular, long running cartoon spawning 19 movies. One could be forgiven for not thinking Pokémon could be caught in the real world.
On July 6, 2016 — two years after a Google April Fool’s Joke based on the same concept — Pokémon Go released on Apple Store and Google Play to worldwide success. In this GPS-based mobile game, players create their own trainer avatars and pick from a choice of three Pokémon: Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle.
Once the players have selected and caught one of the three choices, they’re free to walk around their town or city and catch various Pokémon that appear as they’re walking and visit landmark locations on their map called Pokéstops, where they can stock up on items they need to catch Pokémon and even find eggs that will hatch into more Pokémon.
With Pokéstops being a part of the game, many towns have seen the game as a way to increase tourism. Many businesses are utilizing these Pokéstops by frequently adding lures — devices that, when attached to a Pokéstop, increase the amount of Pokémon encounters in an area — to any stop near their establishment.
 “Pokémon Go is a great opportunity for tourism. It’s a great opportunity for trainers to explore their town,” Marble Falls-LBJ Chamber of Commerce Director of Marketing and Tourism Erin Burks said.
Alongside the Pokéstops across town, there are gyms located at landmarks that players can conquer and defend with their Pokémon, providing opportunities for tourism and business.
“The Marble Falls Visitor Center is a gym. Players have the opportunity to interact with the volunteers and explore the opportunities Marble Falls has to offer,” Burks said.
With the game’s boom, seeing people walking around playing the game has become a common sight in Marble Falls and Burnet.
“While we don’t know what’s causing the increase in tourism, we are seeing people play Pokémon Go while they are on vacation here,” Burnet Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Winkler said.
“Pokemon’s a great opportunity to turn strangers into friends,” Burks added.

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