SAN FRANCISCO — If you thought it was bad dodging phone-fixated “Pokemon Go” players on the sidewalk, just wait: Legions of tipsy people could soon be chasing cartoon monsters from one tavern to the next in a series of pub crawls planned for cities across the U.S.
The monsters are invisible unless you’re playing the addictive smartphone game that’s swept the U.S. and a few other nations so far. The same can’t be said for the hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of pub crawlers who have RSVP’d on Facebook for these impromptu events.
Organizers in San Francisco, Brooklyn and other cities are encouraging people to dress in costumes and form teams to compete in capturing the virtual Pokemon critters. (Players use an app to scan for them in the real world.)
SHOOTIING AT POKEMON GO PLAYERS
PALM COAST, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a Florida man fired shots at two late-night “Pokemon Go” players in a car outside his house but no one was injured.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office spokesman James Troiano says in a news release that the homeowner awoke to a noise outside about 1:30 a.m. Saturday and saw a car sitting in the road in front of his house. He told authorities he got a handgun and approached the vehicle.
Troiano says the two teens in the car sped away and the man fired several shots at them.
Later that morning, he says, the mother of one of the teens called the sheriff’s office when they realized the car had a flat tire and several bullet holes in it. She told officials the two had been playing the smartphone app.
The release says the investigation is ongoing.
STARTING SMALL, GETTING BIGGER
While it isn’t clear how many people will participate, the first big test should come this weekend. More than 900 people have signaled their intentions on Facebook to attend a “Pokemon Go” pub crawl in Cincinnati on Saturday, while 800 have said they’ll turn out in Pittsburgh.
“We have a lot of customers who are into it. Our entire staff plays it,” said Jeff Smith, a manager at the 16-Bit Bar and Arcade, the first stop on Saturday’s “Pokemon Go” stroll through Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
Almost 6,000 people have RSVP’d on Facebook to participate in a Pokemon pub crawl in San Francisco on Wednesday night, organized by 21-year-old Sara Witsch, who says she’s still devising the route. Police say they’re unsure how many people to expect, but appear to be taking the prospect in stride.
“Obviously we expect them to obey traffic laws and not run out into the middle of the street,” said Grace Gatpandan, public information officer for the San Francisco police department.
Another 3,500 people clicked a Facebook button to attend a similar event in Brooklyn on July 23, while 1,200 said they’d turn out the same night in St. Petersburg, Florida.
DRATINI, PLEASE, VERY DRY
In the week since the game’s release, “Pokemon Go” fans have flocked to parks, piers and other public spots in search of creatures with names like Pikachu, Dratini and Jigglypuff. One small park in Sydney, Australia has drawn crowds of 1,000 or more players — sparking complaints from nearby residents about noise and trash, according to news reports
Witsch said she’s been surprised by the response to her announcement in San Francisco, since she expected “maybe 50 people.” She’s still contacting bars to let them know about the event.
The response hasn’t surprised Karen North, a psychologist and University of Southern California professor who studies social media.
“People are social animals, and they’re always looking for something new and exciting to do,” North said. “This is much more fun than just going to a pub crawl, because it gives everybody a common activity and something to talk about.”
GETTING JIGGLYPUFF WITH IT
About 1,700 people have RSVP’d on Facebook for a July 23 Pokemon pub crawl in Sacramento. Despite reports that players have been injured and others robbed after becoming distracted by the game, City Councilman Steve Hansen said he’s hoping for a positive vibe during the crawl, which two of his constituents are organizing.
“There’s been this real anxiety around the country in the last couple of weeks. I think we need things that bring the community together,” Hansen said, referring to recent racial and political tensions. He said the event offers the promise of “a little bit of harmless fun, especially if you make sure you don’t walk into the street while chasing Pokemon.”
New Yorker Justin Carlino voiced a simpler goal.
“Most kids who grew up with Pokemon are people our age now,” said Carlino, 24, who decided to organize a Brooklyn event with his friend, Michael Ackermann, 26, after a recent night spent imbibing and playing the game. “They love Pokemon and they love drinking, so this is a perfect combination of both.”
In other news about “Pokemon Go”:
Illinois Guard bans ‘Pokemon Go’ players from properties
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois National Guard is barring smartphone-toting players of “Pokemon Go” from its facilities.
National Guard officials said Friday that the public isn’t allowed on its facilities statewide to access the virtual Pokestops and gyms that are part of the game.
Guard officials said several players have appeared at the gates of Illinois National Guard facilities and training centers asking for access.
The ban covers Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Illinois Department of Military Affairs properties. It also extends to soldiers, airmen and federal and state employees working on the properties. However, an exception is being made for the Illinois State Military Museum.
Public affairs director Lt. Col. Brad Leighton said the Guard is working to have its facilities removed from the game.
‘Pokemon Go’ suspects plead not guilty to sneaking in zoo
TOLEDO, Ohio — A man and woman accused of climbing over a fence at the Toledo Zoo to play “Pokemon Go” have pleaded not guilty to trespassing charges.
The pair was in court Friday to face misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge.
Police say 25-year old Robin Bartholomy and 26-year-old Adrian Crawford, both of Toledo, went over a fence at the zoo early Thursday in search of the smartphone game’s cartoon monsters.
Bartholomy told Toledo area media outlets she knew it wasn’t a very responsible thing to do, but added that she was on the hunt for the monsters.
Crawford said they were having a great time until the police showed up. Both say they were in the zoo about an hour before being spotted on a security camera.
They’re now banned from the zoo.