Written by Muleskinner Staff

Features Editor

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — “What team are you on?” Mickie Erisman, a UCM alumna, asked me as I walked with phone in hand toward the James C. Kirkpatrick Library. Erisman was watching her nephew and grandson near the statue on the library’s lawn.

“Mystic,” I said. Erisman’s 6-year-old grandson, Charlie, eagerly approached me. “Will you help me take over this gym?”

They were both referring to a Pokémon gym in Pokémon Go, an app that allows users to catch and train Pokémon as they walk. The game has become increasingly popular since its inception July 6. It has even drawn the Warrensburg community to campus. Erisman said this was her second visit in the past two days.

And I can see why. Campus is a prime spot to play the game. There are two gyms and more than 15 PokéStops near the various sidewalks and landmarks scattered around campus. One gym is located by the library at Rita

Blitt’s “Fantasy” sculpture. Another is near the Navy V-12 Memorial in front of the Elliott Student Union.

At gyms, trainers can battle their Pokémon against other trainers’ Pokémon to take over the gym for their team and earn coins. Trainers can be on three different teams: Valor, Mystic and Instinct. Each team is represented by a different legendary Pokémon – Moltres for team Valor, Articuno for Mystic and Zapdos for Instinct – and each has a different gym leader.

The teams are highly competitive. Charlie and his cousin, Casey, had just taken over the gym for team Mystic when it was taken over again by members of team Valor. Despite the rivalries, Pokémon trainers seem to share a sense of friendship. Erisman said the boys often go up to other trainers and ask what level and team they’re on.

“We’ve made a lot of friends this way,” she said.

Pokémon Go is popular with Pokémon fans of all ages and has helped some families bond.

“My dad doesn’t even play Pokémon. He knows nothing about it,” said Kaitlin Luckan, sophomore vocal music education major. “But when he heard that I was playing, he would offer to drive me around places. He would ask me what I was catching and what I was getting from PokéStops and stuff.”

Harrison Mehlman, junior engineering technology major, said his stepmother and brothers play the game while they shop together.

“They never went out together unless they had to, but now my stepmom says, ‘Oh, your brothers now want to go shopping with me,’” he said.

His youngest brother also accompanies their stepmother during evening walks.

“It’s good family bonding,” Mehlman said.

Many hope the game will continue to expand and eventually include features like the ability to battle nearby trainers.

“What we really need is to be able to trade your Pokémon,” Erisman said as she walked with her family to another gym.

Charlie approached two team Valor players who warned him that they had some hard-to-beat Pokémon defending it.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Charlie told them, “but we’re gonna’ take it over!”

As students return to campus for the fall semester, I suspect Charlie will have a lot more competition if he wants “to be the very best like no one ever was.”