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

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Shoshana Ke­dem @B_shosh shoshana@7days.ae

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.”

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