If you drive next to the South Carolina state capitol building you’ll notice that lots of people are gathering around on the steps in front. No, this isn’t a silent protest of people who all happen to be using their cell phones. These people are playing a new video game called “Pokemon Go”.
Pokemon Go requires that players walk around to find virtual animals hidden in plain sight. The game tracks the player’s location with their cell phone’s GPS system and randomly generates encounters with these digital animals. When players get to a special location like a church, statue, memorial or mural, called a “PokeStop”, the players get rewarded with items to use in the game and the possibility of catching the most rare Pokemon.
One of the best spots in Columbia is the state capitol grounds where there are 14 monuments within a single square block. Elliot Reiser and Steven Williams were playing Pokemon Go on Main Street outside the capitol Thursday afternoon. Elliot Resier said that they were walking around Columbia, “looking for a Muk, but we might switch to a Bulbasaur.” These unfamiliar creatures are the names of Pokemon, animals in the world of the video game.
Both Williams and Reiser agreed that the capitol grounds are the best place to catch Pokemon in the city. On Thursday, Reiser said there were, “around 150 people just all around.” Williams chimed in, “at least that many catching Pokemon, you know. Not sure that were just visiting it but at least catching Pokemon at least 150.”
The most surprising aspect of the Pokemon Go game is that it gets players to travel places they have never visited. Steven Williams said the last time he visited the State House grounds was in, “ninth grade which was, I don’t even know. Five years ago, six years ago. It has been a while since I’ve been here.” Both Williams and Reiser said they have been to the state capitol twice this week.
The increase in foot traffic is not only limited to the day. Cpl. Brandice McNulty with the Department of Public Saftey, which provides security at the Statehouse, said that during her patrol the last few nights she witnessed, “a group of 15-20 people at two, three, four o’clock in the morning, playing the game.”
When asked if the late night Pokemon players caused problems on the grounds, McNulty chuckled. “They would sit down, get up, take a couple of steps, look at their phones and start doing other things on their mobile devices and that is the typical pattern of what they would do around the grounds,” she said. McNulty said to her knowledge, “there have been no negative incidents that happened. Most of the people are very kind and respectful and friendly.”
The Pokemon Go craze that brought hundreds of people outside the state capitol also affected the goings-on inside the state capitol. Governor Nikki Haley tweeted a photo Wednesday of the Pokemon she said she “caught” inside her own office.