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Pokemon Go catches southwest suburbs

For more than a decade, the Pokemon franchise has been catching the attention of fans from coast to coast.

But when augmented reality met the real world in July, Joliet, Shorewood and their surrounding suburbs joined the countless communities across the nation to be overcome with Pokemania.

The mobile app Pokemon Go saw its nation-wide release on July 6, and so did the anticipation of the many fans drawn to the popular franchise. The location-based, augmented-reality game is designed to lure gamers of all ages to try their hand at becoming Pokemon “trainers.”

Jacob Seiler, 11, of Plainfield, was one of many Pokemon trainers at Louis Joliet Mall, visiting the Pokestop made available at its GameStop location.

“It’s enjoyable because there’s a lake right by my house and there’s a path around,” he said. “You can walk around it and you’ll be catch Pokemon; there’s a bunch of Pokemon.”

Seiler noted that he’s a big fan of Pokemon, which includes video games, an animated TV series and trading cards. Pokemon, which grew in popularity in the late 1990s, is centered on fictional characters of the same name. Seiler said he is on level 4 in the most recent Pokemon game. To date, Seiler said catching a Drowzee (Google it) was his biggest accomplishment.

Roman Ortega, 8, of Plainfield, said he was looking forward to hitting up the mall’s Pokestop. These sites can be located at parks, post offices, water towers, libraries, village halls, memorials and many other public places. Pokestops are places where gamers can refuel their Pokeballs, which are required to catch Pokemon in the game, as well as acquire other special items that can be used in the Poke-world.

“I like that I can move and you’re actually in real life,” Ortega said, who added that his favorite Pokemon is Charmander (again, Google). “I like that it’s really strong.”

Ortega’s mom, Julie said, he’s a big fan of Pokemon.

“We just downloaded the app onto my phone yesterday and ever since he’s been talking about it nonstop,” she said.

Julie noted that Roman’s very naturally into playing games and apps.

“It’s always a struggle with him to get him to do chores and ‘like’ schoolwork,” she added. “Although it’s summer vacation, I still have him trying to read a little bit and like write a paragraph, and it’s always a huge struggle.”

Still, the Plainfield Mom said she sees positives in allowing her son to play Pokemon Go.

“This might be a good I was thinking because at least like you know he’s like, ‘OK, mom, let’s go to the park; there’s a stop there,’” she said. “So, then we get out of house to go to the stop. It’s not really getting away from technology, but it might help a little bit.”

Gavin Carrasco, 10, of Romeoville, said he really enjoys playing the app.

“We went to Chicago just recently and all we did was walk around and stuff and have fun and stuff,” he said.

Carrasco said he caught a Pikachu recently, and that’s his favorite Pokemon character right now.

Gavin’s dad, Victor said, he likes the way the app motivates his son to be active.

“I like it just because he actually gets out and gets away from traditional video games. We’re seeing a lot more families by the parks now kind of doing it all together.”

Victor said he’s been surprised by his wife’s reaction to Pokemon Go and the way the game encourages the whole family to play together.

“Since the kids do it, she usually tags along,” he said. “Now, she’s kind of into it. Anything that promotes them getting outside works for me.”

Gavin is level 7 in the game, and said he would surely recommend the app to others.

“If you need help, I bet there’s going to be people outside playing anywhere you go,” he said.

Gabriel Hernandez, 17, of Joliet, is a long-time fan of Pokemon, and said the release of the game refueled his interest in the popular franchise.

“It just kind of brought it back,” he said.

To date, Hernandez said, he is level 18 in the game.

Hernandez said he really likes how the game motivates he and others to get out and be active.

Hernandez noted that since downloading the app, he’s found a few hotspots along the way, and he finds a lot of Pokemon whenever he goes to these places.

“It’s Pilcher Park,” he said. “And if not, it’s also Bicentennial Park. Those are pretty hotspots.”

Hernandez said these are two places Pokemon Go has taken him that he otherwise wouldn’t have visited.

“All the people that are there…” Hernandez said. “It’s also nice. The views there are nice. The monuments there are pretty good, too.”