Canadian gamers embrace Pokemon Go - once figuring out how to get the mobile hit

By The Canadian Press
July 12, 2016 - 5:34am

TORONTO — Canadians unwilling to wait for access to the mobile gaming sensation Pokemon Go seem to be having no trouble figuring out ways to join the fun now.

Officially, the augmented-reality game has only been available in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan since last week, but it quickly became an overnight smash hit generating headlines around the world.

The game sends players into the real world to search for the mythical digital pocket monsters known as Pokemon, who appear onscreen when users hold up their iPhones or Android devices in various locations at various times of the day.

Most Canadians have been forced to watch from the sidelines, but a significant number appear to have found workarounds.

Tanya Barrett says she and three of her kids were playing the game all weekend, exploring their east-end Toronto neighbourhood for hours despite restrictive measures meant to stagger the game's global rollout.

"It's different than the gaming consoles where you're staring at the TV," says 41-year-old Barrett, who adds it forces her eight-year-old and 10-year-old twins to get out of the house.

"It's summer, they're looking for something to do.... They've actually been getting out. Yes, they're still attached to a device but they've been getting out. In the summer, sometimes that's hard to do."

Getting the game was relatively easy, she adds.

She was able to download it for her iPhone through a U.S. iTunes account, while her husband figured out how to put it on his Android phone thanks to a YouTube video.

But eager downloaders do so at their own risk, says fellow Toronto-based Pokemon Go fan JP Casino, who pointed to reports of malware embedded in unofficial Android downloads, as well as possible blowback from game developer Niantic.

Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped the 39-year-old from downloading the game from his U.S. iTunes account.

"It's insanely fun," says Casino, who plays with his six-year-old son. He adds the appeal for him involves a fair bit of nostalgia.

"For a lot of us anyway, it's touched on a lot of our childhoods and earlier years."

Like the Pokemon franchise that hit in the late 1990s, the goal is to find and capture the cartoon creatures, which can be upgraded and pitted against each other.

The game comes from Nintendo, the Pokemon Company and Niantic, and has shot to the top of the charts on Apple's App Store and on Google's Play marketplace.

Toronto's Gregory Brown admits to being so enamoured with Pokemon Go that he played while cycling to work. Luckily, he managed to avoid any scrapes.

Even walking while playing can lead to inadvertent collisions and falls, he admits.

"It's addictive and you're so interested in the game you kind of forget that you're in real life," he says.

"I do understand that there's going to be risks."

Brown, 27, says he's fascinated with the game, which has also encouraged him to change his morning running routine.

"It rewards you if you go to different places and find different Pokemon in different specific spots," says Brown, who adds he was never into video games before.

"And then yesterday I just went on a bike ride around the city and went to different places and got different Pokemon."

Reports are already emerging of Pokemon Go-related injuries — one online poster said they slipped into a ditch while playing and ended up in hospital with a fractured foot.

Ontario's Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca tweeted a photo of a Pokemon Go player with the warning: "Don't be a pidgeot. Look where you're walking and keep your head up when crossing the street."

A spokesman for Niantic didn't respond to a request for comment about an official Canadian launch.

But CEO John Hanke told Business Insider that the international rollout would be on hold while they deal with overloaded servers.

Barrett says the game has been a great experience for her family so far, and she expects it will even help her twins navigate public transit with more confidence when they return to school in the fall.

"It reminds me of when I was young and you'd just go out with a group of kids. You don't see that very often nowadays."

Cassandra Szkarski, The Canadian Press

©2016 The Canadian Press

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