New Ulmites Getting Active to Go “Catch em’ All” in Pokemon Go

·        By Nathan Fuerst, MN GreenCorps member working with The Heart of New Ulm Project



It was a warm evening on Minnesota Street in downtown New Ulm. Other than a shopper or two, the street was mostly the domain of a warm mid-July sun. That is, until a flock of young folks -- ranging from teens to adults - took to the street with phones in hand. Walking up and down the sidewalks and excitedly chatting with one another, they were seeking Pokemon, those iconic creatures of 90s pop-culture.


Why? Thanks to modern smartphone technology, a free app called Pokemon Go hit the app store in early July. The game builds off of nostalgia for the wildly popular Pokémon games which were originally released nearly two decades ago. This version has inched closer to reality by using what is called “augmented reality,” where the app uses your smartphone’s camera and GPS to make it look like Pokémon actually exist in the real world. The game is essentially a variation of geocaching, an activity where people use a GPS and coordinates to find hidden prizes like trinkets. Except in this version, the prize is catching a location-specific Pokémon, which allows a player to advance in the game. 


Screentime CAN be active time

Videogames are very often seen as being the enemy of healthy activity, and in many cases, games require periods of little physical activity. However, in Pokémon Go, successful players are required to leave the house and be active by walking around the physical environment in order to find and catch Pokemon. Players are further encouraged to explore their surroundings because destinations of significance, such as museums, parks and public art, give the player valuable items. Other features of the game create community by encouraging players to work together and form teams.


Getting kids (and adults) out and about

The popularity of the original games, and the ensuing versions, has made Pokemon Go an instant success. One unforeseen benefit is the amount of people that it has coerced to be active by walking, biking, scooting or skating. Innovative games like this one give us one more tool with which to get our 30 minutes of daily activity or 60 minutes for children as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Here’s a short list of some locations in New Ulm that the whole family (and especially the gamers) can enjoy visiting:


  • Downtown New Ulm
  • Way of the Cross
  • Hermann Monument
  • German Park
  • Riverside Park



Happy trails, and as the game suggests: “Remember to be alert at all times, stay aware of your surroundings.”