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Twinsburg joins the Pokemon monster hunt

by Gina Mace | Reporter Published: July 27, 2016 12:00 AM
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Twinsburg -- Tim Sweet is a delivery driver for Prosel, an East Aurora Road business, while his friend, Michael Browning, works in the company's warehouse.

At 26 years each, the work that pays the bills for the Independence men is far removed from what they planned to do with their lives at 5.

Sweet and Browning found themselves hanging out near the clock tower July 19 at Twinsburg Town Center.

They were waiting for Browning's phone to unfreeze so they could continue their mission.

"A Pokemon trainer," Sweet said. "It's what we wanted to be when we were young."

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Pokemon is short for "pocket monster" and the title of a popular cartoon first broadcast in the U.S. in 1998.

"We couldn't wait for new episodes to come out," Browning said.

They aren't the only ones.

Little boys all over the world, including Jesse Simon, 22, of Medina, wanted to emulate Ash Ketchum, an animated 10-year-old boy who with his first capture and best friend, Pikachu, travels the world to find, train, evolve and battle as many Pokemon as he can in his quest to become "the greatest Pokemon Master ever."

But as the boys discovered when they became men, there were no Pokemon to catch in the real world.

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Until now.

On July 6, Niantic, Inc, released Pokemon GO, an augmented reality game that creates trainers out of anyone with a smartphone and an urge to take a walk.

Simon and his 14-year-old cousin, Caleb Simon, were at Twinsburg Township Square July 19, refilling their Poke balls at nearly half a dozen Poke Stops and searching for any of the 150 monsters released with the game.

"I used to play on Game Boy," Jesse said.

Jesse, who grew up on the animated series and video game, taught Caleb how to play.

"I didn't know anything about Pokemon and he was so knowledgeable," Caleb said. "He told me, 'this [Pokemon] evolves into this, and this one is this.' It's a whole new world of knowledge for me."

The creators inserted Poke Stops into Google Maps, where players can get supplies; and team gyms, where Pokemon can be trained or battle opposing teams.

About 150 Pokemon in the initial release can be found almost anywhere.

Although it is not unusual to find people driving slowly, looking down at their phones in the area of a Poke Stop, the game is designed to get players out of the house and moving, according to the Niantic website.

There are Poke Stops in parks, at schools, churches, cemeteries and other areas difficult to get to by driving.

Tim Sweet said he would never play while driving, and has warned his 16-year-old brother about the hazards of Pokemon hunting while driving.

"I like my car and not getting tickets," Sweet said. "I went for a walk in a cemetery and there were people driving, playing the game. That's dangerous, and it wastes gas."

"It's not worth a life," Browning said.

Jesse and Caleb were among 30 or so people ranging in age from infants to seniors who came to Township Square to hunt for Pokemon July 19.

Maya Brown-Zimmerman was there with her husband, Mark Zimmerman, sons Miles, 7 and Julian, 5, and daughter, Ruby, 1.

"The kids have an interest, but I didn't anticipate enjoying it," she said. Brown-Zimmerman says she had been trying to exercise more, but it's been an uphill battle to get the kids out of the house for walks during the day.

"Now they're eager to go out," she said.

"Something we always wanted to do is go out for summer walks, and now we do," Zimmerman said.

Jesse said he would likely be inside his house playing video games if not for the game.

"Walking is my least favorite activity," he said.

Michael Browning, who is single, chases Pokemon daily -- either with his girlfriend or to keep up with her catches.

Sweet, who has a 1-year-old daughter, confines his play to about twice a week.

"I don't know anyone our age not playing it," Sweet said. "It's like living your childhood dream."

Email: gmace@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9423

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

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