The joys of Pokmon Go: exercise, the outdoors and ‘full-on escapism’

Fans from San Francisco to New York extol the benefits of the monster-catching craze while trying to avoid walking into poles

Theres a really rare Pokmon really close by, confides Deann Rossi.

Shes leaning against a wall near the World Trade Center, in lower Manhattan, surveying the landscape on her Pokmon Go app.

The rare species is a Scyther, a nearly 5ft-tall green bug, known for its aggression and speed. Its just a few blocks away, loitering on a street corner towards the Hudson River.

Sadly for the busy Rossi, 31, she cant catch the 123lb insectoid this Scyther will live to fight another day.

Rossi has been a fan of the Pokmon world, where humans catch creatures and pit them against each other for sport, since the 1990s. But since Pokmon Go, a mobile version of the game, was released, her interest has risen to new levels. In the five days since its 6 July launch, Rossi has already spent many hours playing the game.

A woman tries to catch em all. Photograph: Piroschka van de Wouw/EPA

I dont even want to think about it, she says of the time she has spent hunting down Pokmon including Pikachu, Charizard and Jigglypuff. Im supposed to be in my office right now and I thought: Im going to look while Im on my way to get coffee.

Rossis commitment has paid dividends, however. Using her iPhone, she has already captured 60 Pokmon. She has also made friends along the way.

I was in the middle of my home town, Rossi says, referring to Belport, a city with a population of 2,000 in Long Island, New York.

And I put out a lure [a device a gamer can plant to attract unwitting Pokmon to your location] and then a bunch of 16-year-old boys just roll up on their skateboards, going: Who put that out? Whos playing?

Rossi says the release of Pokmon Go, which has already been downloaded around 7.5m times in the US, has been cathartic during an ill-tempered election and a period of widespread civil unrest.

This is full-on escapism, she says. Where Im like: Let me just go catch some Pokemon and ignore the news.

On the hunt in Union Square, New York. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

From New York Citys financial district to the waterfront in San Francisco, the city where the new incarnation of the game was born, its not hard to find other people playing Pokmon Go.

On the next block from where Rossi is playing, Joanna Zhang is in the process of detaining a Pidgey, a foot-tall bird that is apparently capable of delivering big pecks.

Zhang, 22, grew up in China, where she used to collect Pokmon stickers. She now lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, and has a haul of 20 Pokemon. She says she has been walking an hour a day trying to catch more.

While there seem to be many areas in New York City where Pokmon are rife, the popularity of Pokemon Go is not confined to large cities.

Dariush Shafa, a 32-year-old marketing specialist, lives in Owensboro, Kentucky. It has a population of 59,000 people, and it seems a good many of them spent Sunday night walking around the citys Smothers Park, trying to catch Pokmon.

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