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Pokémon Go fever hits Charm City

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2017-01-03 16:34:25-05

It's pretty normal to see people with their heads down, buried in their cell phones.  But groups of people walking around Charm City aren’t exactly being anti-social, they’re playing a game.

"I've been trying to like get out there religiously every day," Gavin Agatiello said.

He's getting out there to find things using their phones with unusual-sounding names.

"Pinsir, Krabby, Tangela, Rattata, Poliwag, Psyduck,” Agatiello said.

"Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle," Thy Nguyen said.

Welcome to the world of Pokémon Go.

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Patterson Park was packed Monday with people on a smartphone scavenger hunt.  Users wander the neighborhood, using their phones to look for Pokémon characters that pop up on the screen.

"That's honestly the best part, because gamers are notoriously lazy," Edward Blackstone said.

The game pushes players to explore their outdoor surroundings, as well as do a lot of walking.  The app fuses digital technology with the physical world called augmented reality.  Pokémon Go uses your phone's GPS and camera to follow a digital map to real locations where you can collect items and spot Pokémon.  The animated characters appear on the screen like they’re really right in front of you.

"Finally to go catch Pokémon, in at least our world version of it, it's pretty awesome,” Nguyen said.  “I think all of us always wanted to be a Pokémon master."

"It's just really immersive,” Agatiello said.  “It gets you out here doing stuff, I just talked to a bunch of people on the path doing it."

Players say it's also forcing them to be more social outside of the game.  One group had only been friends for five minutes when our camera ran into them.  Everyone met trying to subdue Pokémon characters.

"So we started talking, and then they showed up, and then we started talking,” Blackstone said. 

ABC2 News found ads posted on Craigslist to drive people around so they can play Pokémon Go, as well as a meet up planned for July 17 to walk around together and catch the characters

There is a Pokémon Go Baltimore Twitter account, and multiple Pokémon Go Baltimore Facebook pages.           

The free game has only been out for a few days, but it's already causing some users to find trouble instead of Pikachu. 

“There are a lot of safety issues, that I have to admit,” Nguyen said.

In Wyoming, a teenager discovered a body lying face down in a river while searching for creatures, and in Missouri, four teens were arrested for allegedly taking advantage of the game to rob people.

There is a warning when you first open the app that says to stay alert and aware of your surroundings, but some folks have ended up in the hospital after chasing the fake animals into hazardous spots.

Baltimore County Police said to avoid secluded areas while playing, don’t open the game while driving, and make sure not to trespass on private property.

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