Local Pokémon gamers visit C of I to ‘Catch ’em all’

While The College of Idaho campus is typically quieter during the summer months, a host of new inhabitants have moved in seemingly overnight. They hide among buildings and bushes, but sometimes can be spotted soaking up rays in the quad. The appearance of these interesting creatures has also brought another crowd on campus—Pokémon trainers—as they attempt to “catch ’em all.”

Pokémon Go is the latest craze to sweep the nation as anyone with a smartphone is tracking down these ‘pocket monsters.’ Stats on the app show 26 million people in the U.S. play it daily, and that includes a variety of people visiting the C of I campus to capture a Ponyta, Vulpix, or Pikachu.

“You see people out walking their dogs and they’ve got a dog leash in one hand and playing Pokémon in the other,” said C of I campus safety officer Jeff Schwartz.

The C of I seems to be a particular hotbed due to the nine “Pokéstops” on campus—everything from the clock tower and Boone Statue to pieces of artwork and historic signs—and the three Pokémon gyms where players battle it out for supremacy.

As a result, the game is exposing the C of I to those who have never before stepped foot on campus.

“We drove past here and saw all of the Pokéstops and decided to check it out,” said Reed Hunsaker, a high school student from Eagle who was playing Pokémon Go along with his younger brother and friend. “It’s hard to find this many Pokéstops in one area.”

Father and son Ben and Brendon Barbot, from Weiser, have been playing the game together for the last week. After stopping by the C of I campus to pick up a friend from soccer camp, they decided to check out all the pokéstops and gyms on campus. For Ben, who hadn’t been on the C of I campus in two decades, a lot had changed.

“You get to walk around and see the new stuff you guys have on campus,” Ben said. “I’m surprised at the updates you’ve done on the buildings in the last 20 years.”

For other ‘trainers,’ the game offers a community, not unlike the C of I’s own #YoteFam. High school student Christian, of Caldwell, noticed people posting things about Pokémon Go and the College on social media, so he decided to check things out for himself.

“I’ve noticed there are a lot of people my age around here, so it’s been cool,” he said while looking for Pokémon in the Quad. “I met a couple of cool bros over here, and now we’re hanging out and talking.”

There have been no issues on campus with Pokémon players, some of whom roam the grounds until the wee hours of the morning. Officer Schwartz has enjoyed the extra company, stopping to ask players what they’ve caught and reminding them to be aware of their surroundings while playing. For him, the most surprising thing has been the age range of players.

“I’ve seen couples in their 50s and 60s walking around playing Pokémon,” he said. “I don’t believe there is an age limit to this game.”

No matter their age and wherever they come from, it seems all are enjoying Pokémon Go at the C of I. Dozens roam the campus daily, smart phones in hand, seeking “to be the very best, like no one ever was.”