Dubai goes mad for Pokemon
The world is going crazy over the new Pokémon Go game - we join the hunt with some of Dubai’s most avid trainers
Even with a week still to go until the official worldwide launch on July 27, thousands of Pokémon Go players in the UAE are trying to catch ’em all.
A group of aspiring trainers is growing in numbers with the spread of the new smartphone craze. Pokémon Go Dubai has nearly 400 Facebook members and its WhatsApp group has had more than 50 subscribers since it was started last week.
While the game is only available in a few regions ahead of its global release, many UAE players just can’t wait and have managed to download it already.
“Pokémon is bringing the world together, more than any tragedy or celebration ever has - it’s been out for a week and there are over 50 million players,” said one of the group’s top ‘trainers’. “People are going out, making friends, travelling - it’s uniting us.”
The Pokémon Go Dubai group competes against three other teams in Dubai at ‘gyms’, where trainers sharpen their monster’s fighting skills.
Star trainer Anax Legna, 26, said: “The battling system in Dubai is set in a way that there are three teams that compete by trying to hold gyms.
“I’m in Valour so whenever I find a gym I beat the team there and place one of my own mons instead.
“I then need other members of my team to supplement my gym with their own mons to keep it strong, as I can only put one, and a challenger can approach with six versus my one if nobody from my team supplements it.”
He said while the group membership is slim, he hopes more trainers will join.
“The group is relatively small compared to the number of players in Dubai, we're hoping to get bigger, but the beautiful thing about this game is whenever you see a lure, it lures players as well as Pokémon!
“Most of us met at lures, and that’s where we find new members,” he said.
The Dubai Mall has been touted as a top spot for Pokéstops, where scores of players can be found crowding around lures, used to attract wild Pokémon.
“We play all day. At hotspots with many people, like Dubai Mall, the lures are active until they kick us out of the mall,” said Legna. So, where should new trainers go to find Pokémon?
Legna, who so far has caught 110 of 145 types, said: “I prefer The Palm because of the walk on the crescent and all the water types.
“The Rixos is great for watertype lovers like me because it’s got so many Squirtle.
“I caught 32 in three days, enough to get the Blastoise. I also got a Raichu at the Rixos as well as a Clefairy.”
The Pokémon Go Dubai WhatsApp group admin is 20-year-old Emirati student Khalifa Ahli. He says groups of players can be seen in Dubai Mall.
He said: “Anywhere that is populated and is a public landmark [have Pokémon]. There are little Pokéstops in the outer neighbourhoods. Places like Dubai Mall are filled with Pokémon.”
There’s no doubt that Pokémon Go has caught the public’s attention - and Hollywood is no exception.
Actors, athletes and musicians are alongside the millions of fans searching for Pokémon. Ellen DeGeneres, Chrissy Teigen, Demi Lovato and Soulja Boy are among the celebrities who’ve posted about the augmented reality sensation on social media.
The addictive, location- aware smartphone game from Niantic Inc blends the Pokémon universe with the real world, providing digital incentives for players to visit landmarks and capture creatures depicted on screen.
“I’m killing it,” said professional snowboarder Chloe Kim. “I was in Oregon and we stayed in a really small town, spent the whole day walking around catching Pokémon. It was so fun.”
While celebrating his supporting actor Emmy nomina- tion for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andre Braugher lamented that he hasn’t been able to log into Pokémon Go since downloading it. “I think it’s because billions of other people around the world are trying to do the same thing and they just don’t have the capacity,” said Braugher. “My son is catching Pokemon right now. I’m a little jealous.” Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams (left) called the craze “fascinating”, but he is not addicted to the game. “I’m not actively playing,” said Abrams. “I had to try it out because I’m a human being who has kids.” Self-help speaker Tony Robbins believes Pokémon Go is just scratching the surface of augmented and virtual reality. He said: “It is wild, the world that we’re entering into. “When the real stuff hits, you’re going to see how popular it’s going to be.”