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Pokemon Go

On your mark, get set, Pokemon Go! Hong Kong’s first organised hunting tour draws police help

Two-hour event culminates in fever pitch as 500 people participate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 11:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 11:25pm

Police officers had to be deployed for crowd control on Saturday as up to 500 hunters of virtual treasure took Pokemon Go mania to new heights in the first organised activity centred on the hugely popular augmented-reality game.

In a sign of the authorities’ concern about large public gatherings of people with their noses buried in their smartphones, at least half a dozen police officers monitored the crowd, with some of them taking photos and videos from various vantage points.

Watch: Why is Pokemon Go so popular

Hosted by gaming events organiser Press Start Hong Kong, “PokeWalk” started at Gilman’s Bazaar in Central at 2pm and ended at Star Ferry Pier about two hours later.

Players were split into four groups to allow marshals to maintain order during the 2km walk as they hunted down the game’s elusive virtual critters and had a chance to fight fellow “Pokemon trainers” (the name for anyone playing the game) at “PokeGyms” (battlegrounds where two players can face off).

Pokemon Go hailed as an ‘old fashioned treasure hunt’ bringing generations together

Event volunteers placed “lures” along the way to boost the participants’ chances of hunting Pokemons. The idea was to allow participants to join and leave the hunt along the way as they wished.

Entire families turned up, including the Poons from Southern district, each member clutching a mobile phone. The parents said they did not think the game would negatively influence their son as long as it was played in moderation.

Jean-Claude Richards, a French national living in Hong Kong for a year, said he felt the event offered a new dimension to the game. “I don’t like walking by myself and I like to meet new people,” he said.

Pokemon Go may be fun – even useful for exercise –but players must not lose sight of reality

The hype reached fever pitch at the event’s final stop at Central Pier, where the appearance of one rare dragon-like creature, Gyarados, elicited a rowdy reaction from the crowd. Players swiped at their screens as fast as they could to catch it.

Around 900 people signed up for the event on Facebook. The organiser said up to 500 actually turned up, and confirmed that it had notified relevant authorities.

We set up the event with the intention of creating a platform for Pokemon players to gather and exchange tips
Vince Siu, event organiser

Vince Siu, co-founder of Press Start Hong Kong, said he was surprised at how popular the event turned out to be. But he refused to commit to organising another tour, saying his group would first have to gauge the response from social media and sponsors.

“We set up the event with the intention of creating a platform for Pokemon players to gather and exchange tips, and never expected the response to be so keen,” he said.

He revealed police had been notified one week before the event and that officers were friendly and accommodating.

As crowds continued to flock to parks and monuments across the city to capture Pokemons, the Highways Department was forced to increase the height of barriers at its construction site in Victoria Park, after players were seen trespassing in the area. Signs were put up to remind players not to enter the site.