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My View: App is opening eyes to the world around us

By Ronald S. Montesano

If you had asked me about the Union Ship Canal rotunda, or Como Lake Park, before a certain something came into my life, I would have stared blankly. What about the Niawanda Park stretch in the City of Tonawanda, or the deepest corners of the Olmsted Parks system? Indubitably, a similar reaction. That something, friends, is Pokemon Go, so take a breath and read me out.

In mid-2016, the app from Niantic took the world by storm for a time. Folks wandered about (and sometimes, into) places, spaces and people, in search of the pocket monsters they had traded in their youth. The enthusiasm abated, leaving a core of committed players.

I signed on in August, as another activity to pursue with our children and the younger sect. I’ve been entranced ever since.

Along the way, Niantic realized that events were critical to the staying power of the app. At Halloween, candies and extra points were available. Same for Thanksgiving, Christmas and, most recently, Valentine’s Day.

On the heels of Red Tuesday came the announcement that Generation 2 critters would be released into the wild. For the aficionados, it was like day one of March Madness, one month early.

I’ve digressed, but I wanted you to have a window into my world. For me, the game is all about the collecting, so an extended stay in one area is not conducive to extensive collecting. That’s where Silph Road and the local Facebook group come into play.

I’ll throw two terms at you, but I’ll postpone the quiz. The terms are spawn and nest. A spawn is when a Pokemon, suddenly and miraculously, pops up in front of you. When certain little gals and guys frequent an area (say, a park) it’s called a nest.

Niantic got in the habit of changing its nests every other Wednesday, so the website Silph Road (a worldwide source for nests) and on the local level, the Pokemon Go Facebook group, began to let players know where to find the critters they needed to complete their Pokedex (a hall of fame of collected critters.)

As a result, hundreds of area denizens, young and old, fit and unfit, began walking the paths of Canalside, Martin Luther King Park, you name it, in search of the critters.

Along the way, these folks came to know, among others, Forest Lawn, Goat Island and Ellicott Creek Park – places that they had driven by, but never visited, for years.

Often it has been that phones were put away, and the natural beauty of the revealed space was taken in. Photos appeared on Instagram and other social media, touting the qualities of each reserve. Who suspected that this would be an ancillary result of a gaming app?

We the seekers are not a perfect lot. Sometimes we are zealous in our pursuit of Pokemon and Pokestops. I know that it is off-putting to see guests of your favorite spaces with phones out, speaking a gibberish of words like “level up,” “metal jacket,” “Chikorita” and “Charizard.”

Don’t be shy! Tell us about your favorite spot in the park, or the space; we’ll be grateful and you’ll have a convert to the wonder of your favorite people nest in Western New York.

For me, I’m grateful to Niantic for this unintended consequence of its most successful app.

Ronald S. Montesano is a Spanish teacher at Nichols School. He lives on Grand Island with his wife and three cats.
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