What Is Pokemon Go Doing to L.A. and Its Human Denizens?

A wild Rhyhorn, one of the 151 species availible in Pokemon Go, found outside West Hollywood's iconic Pacific Design Center
A wild Rhyhorn, one of the 151 species availible in Pokemon Go, found outside West Hollywood's iconic Pacific Design Center
Mike Ciriaco

Less than a week after its launch, Pokemon Go fever is spreading through Los Angeles faster than a Rapidash on crystal meth. The location-based, augmented-reality app, which was released to the United States, Australia and New Zealand on July 6 for Android and iOS, is like the bastard love child of Nintendo and Google Maps. As players walk around in real life, cutesy little pocket monsters will pop up on their smartphones. The goal is singlemindedly basic: Catch 'em all! While the game itself represents a groundbreaking evolution in gaming, Pokemon Go has quickly created a fresh set of problems — but it's got pros, too.

Local WeHoans, out of their homes and hunting Pokemon in public
Local WeHoans, out of their homes and hunting Pokemon in public
Mike Ciriaco

1. Gotta get off your ass.
Like most major metropolises, in L.A. everything comes right to your front door. You can Eat24 a pizza from Vito’s, Saucey a bottle of Grey Goose, hell, even Speed Weed a gram of Jack Herer without leaving the comfort of your sofa, which is ideal if you plan to sit on your tuchas and play PS4 all afternoon. But Pokemon Go flips the script. In order to catch different species of cyber-critters, it's necessary to venture out into the wilds of Los Angeles and directly interact with the city. The more territory you explore, the more Pokemon you encounter. It incentivizes actually living in the city you're living in.

Laney, a local makeup artist, walks around WeHo searching for Charmanders.
Laney, a local makeup artist, walks around WeHo searching for Charmanders.
Mike Ciriaco

2. Gotta pump them legs.
Pokemon Go is a digital personal trainer in disguise. As part of the game play, you have to physically move from location to location. As you travel, you encounter either wild Pokemon to capture or actual city landmarks that double as "Pokestops," points on the map that reward you with key items once you approach them. Both the Pokemon and the items are quickly exhausted, requiring you to keep moving, sneakily tricking you into getting cardiovascular exercise. Just be sure to watch where you're walking, as a number of players have already been injured because they were more concerned with snatching a Diglett than sidestepping a ditch.

3. Gotta curb your car.
L.A. has long been defined by its car culture, but driving while Pokemon-ing is detrimental. Not only will you speed past all those coveted Clefairies and Kinglers but you may just plow straight into another vehicle. Entrepreneurs in cities such as New York, Portland, Oregon, and Baltimore have remedied this problem by offering Uber-like ride services that will drive you around town, so you can hunt Haunters without having to hoof it. But, until Poke-chauffeurs pull into SoCal, play it safe and keep it in park.

An Angeleno multitasking at the Sal Guarriello Memorial Fountain: walking his dog, flirting and catching Pokemon
An Angeleno multitasking at the Sal Guarriello Memorial Fountain: walking his dog, flirting and catching Pokemon
Mike Ciriaco

4. Gotta interact. 
A side effect of getting out of your car and walking around your neighborhood is that you pop out of that L.A. Bubble and begin interacting with your community. Honestly, the most adorable sight in West Hollywood is seeing a gaggle of gay geeks gathered at the Sal Guarriello Memorial Fountain as they gossip, flirt and nab Nidorans.

An Angeleno hits up the Angel Wing mural on Orlando Street to replenish his Pokeball supply. Not seen, his annoyed girlfriend impatiently smoking and waiting off camera.
An Angeleno hits up the Angel Wing mural on Orlando Street to replenish his Pokeball supply. Not seen, his annoyed girlfriend impatiently smoking and waiting off camera.
Mike Ciriaco

5. Gotta catch some culture.
In order to catch Pokemon, players need to get Pokeball, little two-toned spheres that act as snares for the computerized quarry. To obtain these, you have to hit up Pokestops, which correspond with some of L.A.’s greatest pieces of public art. Known Pokestops include a mural by graffiti artist Alec at Melrose and Sierra Bonita and the Giant Chair sculpture south of the Pacific Design Center. In fact, any neighborhood you chose for Poke hunting is guaranteed to have a series of artistic notables lining the closest major thoroughfare, creating an accidental art walk that rivals any in DTLA. If you gotta catch 'em all, you might as well catch some culture while you're at it.

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