Although the initial craze surrounding Pokémon Go wore off for some, the community of players in the Mid-Ohio Valley is alive and well. The app, released in summer of 2016, was instantly popular – eclipsing Tinder in users and downloads within the first week; not long after, it passed Twitter for daily users. Those who played the game when they were young and people with no prior Pokémon experience whatsoever were hooked and began scouring public parks, historic landmarks, and downtown centers to try to catch ‘em all.

For those who are still on the hunt, there are several local groups, but none seems to be as active or as enthusiastic as Pokémon Go MOV, a Facebook group of more than 1,150 local members. Cora Fountaine, one of the page’s administrators, acquired the page from another group and has kept it going, posting challenges, fun updates, and offering rewards to members.

“The whole purpose of Niantic designing Pokémon Go was to bring people together,” said Cora, “and it sure has! We have a huge and amazing PokémonGo community. Most of us didn’t know each other before playing this game. Once you start seeing the same people out and about and showing up to Raids, you start to form a bond, so to speak.” (Raids are events within the game where the greatest rewards are accessed when multiple people are playing together.) “It’s been pretty awesome to find common interests in a game with total strangers and then become ‘family.’”

While you are waiting for your friends to arrive, you can read up on that location and learn something new about that place’s local history.

While video games can get a bad rap for developing social skills, Pokémon Go seems to have succeeded in encouraging players to get out and meet new people. “When the game first launched, I can remember being in awe of how many people flooded to City Park,” Cora said. “It has exposed me to so many people I had never met before. I mean, who wouldn’t want to catch a cute imaginary monster!?” The game also encourages players to explore their cities, with featured spots (Pokemon Gyms and Pokestops) typically stationed at historic landmarks, sites of interest, and public gathering spaces. “Here in town, you can walk up to the Historic District (in Parkersburg) and most of the gyms where raids are held and poke stops are where historic plaques are located. So while you are waiting for your friends to arrive, you can read up on that location and learn something new about that place’s local history.”

Members of Pokemon Go MOV Group

Many of the active group members see each other on a daily basis now and have built strong friendships. The group is inclusive of those of all ages, interests, and experience. “We do our best to include anyone and everyone in playing this game,” said Cora. Members use the group to share tips, reach out for advice, and organize events. Having tried to communicate with players in other cities, Cora knew the community here in the MOV was something special. And she wasn’t the only one.

We walk, we talk, and most importantly, we support each other in getting more healthy and fit.

One member, Jerry Cantwell, started to notice the health benefits of walking around while playing the game, and started a second group, Pokémon Go MOV Fitness. “I have never had what you would call a workout kind of mind. Getting fit is easy for some, but a lot harder for others. I noticed over the last two years that without trying, I always felt better physically and mentally when I went out to play Pokémon Go, and I started to lose weight,” said Jerry. “I also started to make wonderful friends who told me they were having the same results.” Instead of walking alone like most players, he said, they get together a few times a week to play Pokémon Go together. “We walk, we talk, and most importantly, we support each other in getting more healthy and fit. After walking, we always have more confidence and a big smile on our faces!”

This spring, the group decided to take the meaning of community one step farther by signing up to participate in Wood County’s Relay for Life Event. “We have several players who are currently battling cancer or who are cancer survivors, and cancer has a direct connection to almost everyone in some way,” said Cora. Her family has witnessed first hand what cancer can do, and how support for those dealing with cancer can go a long way. She and another member, Angela Reed, signed up as team captains – a first-time experience for Cora.

“We joked that we were already walking circles in the park to catch Pokémon, so we may as well put it to some good use and raise money for a good cause!”

The team held a contest to come up with its name. “It just so happens that a fellow player who is a survivor, Nick Graham, came up with our winning name – ‘Gotta Cure ‘em ALL!’” In addition to raising funds for the cause, the team has been collecting raffle items and has more in store for the big day. Cora said they have a special guest joining them for Relay as well, inviting participants to bring their kids and have some fun. In just one month, the team met their fundraising goal of $2,000 – which Cora credits to the incredible support of their Pokemon family. “I just want to stress how amazing this community is – nothing would be possible without everyone helping out.” Although they reached their initial goal, the team is still collecting donations, and it is never too late to sign up to walk!

Whether you are a Pokémon enthusiast or have no plans to download the app, it’s hard not to be inspired by the camaraderie that has grown from this game in the MOV. Happy Catching!

PS. Clutch MOV is on Team Valor 😉