Weekender

Area residents flock to Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square for Pokemon Go event

WILKES-BARRE — Hundreds of people lined the streets of downtown Wilkes-Barre Sunday afternoon to capture one of Pokemon’s most iconic characters, Squirtle, on the Pokemon Go app.

The app just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its release on July 6. It allows users to use their cellphones to create an augmented reality on their devices’ screens. In that reality, they can capture characters from the popular animated television show.

After seeing a dip in users, app developers installed a new feature to garner more users, create buzz and return the gaming application to its former glory.

“Every month the app makes an event called Community Day,” said Vito Picozzo, 30, of Moscow. “They create a crazy amount of spawn locations of a specific Pokemon. This month happens to be Squirtle.”

Community Day has been around since January, but it hasn’t been as popular in Northeastern Pennsylvania because of the winter.

“I think there are more people out and about because it’s a beautiful summer day,” Picozzo mentioned. “I still participated in the winter months, but you didn’t see this type of crowd.”

Asides from the Squirtle hunt, the app threw an extra incentive at Pokemon Go users.

If users look at the Poke-stop locations, which are real places, they can find a field research icon. By capturing five research icons, the person will receive a Squirtle wearing sunglasses.

Christina Thomas, 22, of Drums, completed the Squirtle with sunglasses quest just half an hour into the event.

“I was so happy to catch the Squirtle with sunglasses so quickly,” Thomas said.

The reason why the Squirtle with sunglasses is so significant is because that’s how the character debuted in the 1997 animated series when he encountered Ash Ketchum.

People walked around solo, in pairs or in giant flocks to capture as many Squirtles as they can.

Among the flock was Christian Skrepenak, 23, of Wilkes-Barre.

“Community Day is very exciting. I’ve caught about 30 Squirtles so far,” Skrepenak said. “I think people are inclined to go catch Squirtle because it reminds them of their childhood.”

While many have disputed Pokemon Go’s benefits, the app has gotten people to exercise without them knowing it.

“Pokemon Go is actually a good thing,” Skrepenak said. “I know we are still using technology, but when you use the app you don’t realize how much you actually are walking and burning calories.”

“The app has also allowed me to meet a lot of great people,” Skrepenak added.

Vito Picozzo, 30, of Moscow, (right) poses with Christina Thomas, 22, of Drums, wearing their Pokemon T-shirts in downtown Wilkes-Barre while trying to hunt for Squirtle on the Pokemon Go app.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_download-2.jpgVito Picozzo, 30, of Moscow, (right) poses with Christina Thomas, 22, of Drums, wearing their Pokemon T-shirts in downtown Wilkes-Barre while trying to hunt for Squirtle on the Pokemon Go app. Dan Stokes | Times Leader

By Dan Stokes

dstokes@timesleader.com

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-5537 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes