It's been less than a week since Pokémon Go was released, and the only people who haven't heard about it by now are probably camping with no phone service. But to those who never got into Pokémon, all this chatter is endlessly confusing. What's a Pokémon? What are PokéStops? Given that the game collides with the real world, this is actually something we all need to learn about, regardless of "too cool" or "too old" status (I'm both, for the record). Because when someone shows up in your backyard talking about imaginary monsters, it would be nice to know why.
The 20-year-old Pokémon franchise revolves around collecting Pokémon (short for pocket monsters) and training them to battle each other (sort of like a cruelty-free version of cock fighting). There are hundreds of species of Pokémon, and they can be caught with a Poké Ball. In the augmented reality game Pokémon Go, the Pokémon can be found just about anywhere in the real world (they're partial to bathrooms, according to USA Today), but users must visit specific locations designated as Pokémon Gyms in order to train their Pokémon for battle, and go to PokéStops to pick up Poké Balls, Pokémon eggs, and other items. The Pokémon official website says that PokéStops can be found at "interesting places, such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments."
According to Mashable, PokéStops have also been pinned to a Hell's Angels clubhouse, an anti-abortion display, and "Seattle's ONLY 24-7 mirrored gloryhole maze" which is very interesting. Last week, CNN reported that Pokémon Go led a Wyoming teen to a dead body floating in a river, and according to Gizmodo, a group of Missouri teens took advantage of their local PokéStop by lying in wait for gamers to show up, then robbing them at gunpoint. Police stations around the world have also been designated as PokéStops, which can present another safety issue; according to the Facebook page for the Duvall, Washington, police department, Pokémon Go users have been "creeping around" behind the station at night and "popping out of bushes." If ever there were a bad time to startle a cop, it's now.
Then there's the case of Boon Sheridan, a Massachusetts man whose home has been designated as a Pokémon Gym. Since the game's launch, he told Games Radar, half a dozen players can be seen loitering outside his home at any given time. So far, he's had no trespassers (though some have blocked his driveway), but Sheridan said that he'll most likely ask Niantic Labs, the creators of the game, to change the Gym's location. Players should keep in mind that while the Pokémon, PokéStops, and Gyms aren't real, the locations where they can be found certainly are, and in the real world, there are some places you just shouldn't go.