Pokémon have invaded Langley, and the locals are pretty happy about it so far.
The popular franchise – in which players catch and train fantasy creatures for battles – launched Pokémon Go in Canada on Sunday.
The augmented-reality game is played on mobile phones and forces its users to head out into the real world to catch critters and pick up equipment.
They are already having an impact on the areas of the community where the density of Pokémon and gear is highest – Fort Langley and downtown Langley City.
“You can’t play sitting at home,” said Melissa Koyanagi, an educational program assistant at the Langley Centennial Museum.
Her co-workers Lyla Asmat and Monica Marwood have all started playing the game in the last week or two. They now head out for walks around the Fort on their lunch hours to play.
“It’s cool that all the heritage markers around here are Pokéstops,” said Asmat.
She hopes it will result in the many people now out and about and playing the game in learning about the community.
“I think the augmented reality part of it, that’s really appealing to me,” Asmat said.
The physical locations where Pokémon Go players can gather are based on historic sites, statuary, museums, churches, and plaques. That means the Fort is rife with them.
“There are so many people in Fort Langley playing,” said Koyanagi.
Beyond that, they’re just enjoying the game itself, levelling up and catching more Pokémon.
“I really like playing it with my friends,” said Marwood, adding that it was a good way to get out in the community.
So far they haven’t thought about using the increased foot traffic to draw more people into the museum, but the game was only officially released in Canada last Sunday.
Downtown Langley City is the other local hot spot, something merchants immediately noticed.
On Sunday a crowd of 100 to 150 young adults and older teenagers congregated around the downtown near McBurney Lane.
“So far, it’s positive,” said Teri James, executive director of the Downtown Langley Business Association.
She said the big gathering on the weekend was just a lot of people out having a good time, with a lot of laughter.
The numbers of people in the core have continued to be high, with 30 to 40 people there on Monday, historically one of the slowest days of the week, said James.
Several businesses around the Langleys are already trying to use the new game to draw in customers.
Telus is offering free in-store phone charging at its Willowbrook location – an offer that came with information on tips and accessories to extend battery life.
The Dairy Queen in Willoughby Town Centre is giving free items or discounts to Pokémon players, depending on what level they have achieved.