Pokemon Go Craze Surprises Atlanta's Historic Centers | WABE 90.1 FM

Pokemon Go Craze Surprises Atlanta's Historic Centers

Jul 13, 2016

Since last week, several museums and cemeteries in Atlanta have noticed large crowds of teenagers and young adults showing up.

Most aren't there primarily to learn about history or to pay their respects to the dead, but swiping their phones while they play a game on it.

Pokemon Go is a mobile app that requires players to physically visit sites to catch fictional creatures called Pokemon and uses a technology called augmented reality, where images and sounds are added to what you see in front of you.

Atlanta residents are participating in meetups and bar crawls to catch Pokemon all over the metro area.

Oakland Cemetery

Pamela Henman, Oakland Cemetery's 33-year-old marketing director, catches Pokemon on her iPhone on her daily walk to work.

Pamela Henmen, director of Marketing at Oakland Cemetery, said the historic site has more than a dozen Pokemon stops for players to gather supplies and a gym to battle other players.
Credit Kyra Semien / WABE

She stood in front of the Confederate Obelisk at Oakland Cemetery, which is one of at least a dozen Pokemon stops. The app includes a description that says the Confederate Obelisk was dedicated by the Ladies Memorial Association.

"There's a Zubat Pokemon so I'm trying to catch it, but it's flying so he's hard to catch," Henman explained before she gave up.

She said she likes that the app sometimes includes information about the monuments people are stopping at if it’s a Pokemon stop.

She said the uptick in visitors because of the app is strange, but the cemetery is capitalizing on it and trying to get the most out of this trend while it lasts.

Val Taylor, a teacher at Morningside Elementary School, led a summer camp of 32 middle school students through the cemetery on Wednesday.

“I'm an old-timer, and that's a big fight,” Taylor said. “I want them to learn all about the city, and they want to play Pokemon Go. Seventy-thousand people to learn about here at Oakland. I mean, you know, come on."

Foot Traffic

Kristie Raymer, director of marketing and communications at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, said Pokemon Go is a traffic generator and free marketing the organization could never afford.

"Because of the magnitude of the content that we cover, we tend to not be as appealing to the younger generation unless we have family programming going on,” Raymer said. “We have been struggling to reach a younger demographic, and it's been a perfect way for people to be engaged with the center through Pokemon." 

She said kids are asking their parents to bring them to the center so they can catch Pokemon and said most people aren’t playing as they walk through the galleries.

“Certainly, they’re going to look up at some point and be touched by content that is in our center. So I don’t think it’s disrespectful,” Raymer said. “I think it’s a really good synergy between the fun of life and the importance of life.”

Inappropriate Gaming

However, Pokemon Go is not welcome everywhere, and people have gotten hurt not being aware of their surroundings.

Visitors to Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. have been asked not to play the game at the centers. 

David Schendowich of Atlanta's William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, which has a focus on Georgia and the Holocaust, has the game on his phone, but said the museum doesn't have a policy in place yet.

"Short term, it's not a good thing because we're not prepared for it,” Schendowich said. “Long term, as we start seeing the trends emerge, we can design exhibitions and experiences around it."

Augmented Reality

He said he’s really interested in augmented reality, and the museum is always looking at ways to integrate new technologies.

"Museums all over are looking at ways to engage their visitors on a deeper level and if there are ways to use this to enhance that museum experience, then this could be a very positive thing,” Schendowich said. “It can also be a very negative thing if people are using it purely for entertainment and not for the educational experience."

There are hundreds of Pokemon stops in the Atlanta area, where players can recharge and gather supplies to battle other players at Pokemon gyms.

Other popular stops in the city are Piedmont Park, Atlantic Station and Georgia State University's library.