All photos by Chris Demelo
Despite all of the mishaps, Pokemon Go Fest was not a complete disaster. The Chicago event was a testament to the amazing community that makes Pokemon Go so special, as people travelled halfway around the world for the chance to capture a few legendary Pokemon and stand side-by-side with other trainers. Pokemon Go means something to its fans, bringing them together in a way that helps people connect in age of digital isolation.
That enthusiasm was on display at Grant Park, where people expressed their love for Pokemon Go in many different ways. For instance, a large Magikarp hat (see below) stood out above the crowd. Casey Peters explained how she made the hat for the event and met people through the game.
“It took me maybe an hour or two [to make the hat],” said Peters. “I came from Oklahoma City, which is about 800 miles, a 13 hour drive. I’ve never been to Chicago so I thought it’d be great to explore. Poke groups are such positive people.”
There were similar stories everywhere in Chicago. Randy and Olivia brought their adorable dog Rocky along for the ride from Florida. Rocky was wearing a red service dog vest that had been redone with bright yellow Zapdos spray paint.
“The service dog vest is legit, but we had our friend spray paint it. We didn’t want [people] to think we are Valour,” said Rocky’s owner.
Another group was sporting custom gym badges that they had earned through their Pokemon Go League in Lexington, Kentucky, which gives out actual, physical badges to participants.
“If you hold the gym for 24 hours you get the badge, and they make these real badges,” said Nathan Elden, one of the players from Lexington. “This is the Broke Spoke Badge, that represents the Broke Spoke company in Lexington. Each represent different gyms throughout town.”
The badges are designed by Sarah Hampton and made by the Kre8now Makerspace and Benjamin Broeck, who ensure that the people of Lexington have actual gym badges to show for their hard work. The badges also encourage people to visit local businesses, which only helps the community. Broeck is a partner at Kre8now and led the charge, using 3D printers to make the badges.
“As you compete through the Lexington league you collect all the badges. We organized it all in town,” said Elden.
The most charming group at Pokemon Go Fest was a family from Wisconsin. Shannon brought her two sons to the event and explained that her older son is into the YouTube scene and has been making his own videos since he was little (he’s a teenager now).
“Ever since Nicholas was little, that kid could go through and edit and find good music and the best free software. He’s really smart about it,” said Shannon.
Shannon is also aware that what goes on the internet stays on the internet, so she and her husband have become de facto producers and editors, offering guidance to their son and making sure that Grandma can still watch the videos.
“No swearing in video. If grandma thinks it’s a bad word she’ll kibosh it. They say snizzle or something to cover swears I don’t know,” said Shannon.
“This is our litmus test. We just double check them. They are boys after all.”
These kinds of stories explain why people play (and love) Pokemon Go. The game brings them together, and that can be more valuable than any legendary Pokemon. Even a year out from its release, fans endure because they want to be the very best. It’s just a lot more fun when you can be the best together.