Fads come and go, affecting the world around us day by day. But the new craze, Pokémon GO, has taken the world by storm. Since its launch on July 6th, this ground breaking game has generated millions of users, increasing by the second with no end in sight. This augmented reality game incorporates virtual creatures with real life locations to bring the game to life. By using satellite locations from the device to locate exactly where you are, the game places you in a virtual reality, blurring the line between the real world and the digital world.

This game provides a unique experience for users and takes them on a new adventure every time they play. Among many stops along this journey is Historic Downtown Willoughby. With a plethora of landmarks and historic meaning behind this little town, it makes it a perfect “hotspot” for Pokémon Go players to feed their addiction. At any given time, you can look at Wes Point Park or anywhere along Erie Street and see clusters of people trying to “catch em’ all”. But this phenomenon has come to be a good thing for Downtown Willoughby over the last few weeks.

“People come from all over Lake County because of the young atmosphere and night life. It all sort of mixes in,” stated local Bryan Shay who is an avid Pokémon Go player in the area. “People are being friendly to each other. The rivalry and competitiveness is part of the fun.”

The game also has a positive effect on educating players of their surroundings. At each Pokestop, which are located at historic landmarks where players can obtain free items such as pokeballs, players are provided with information on the specific location they are at. Being Historic Downtown Willoughby, there are a variety of opportunities for players to become more informed of the town they live in. “We learn that they [landmarks] are there, because I didn’t know many of them were before,” Shay said on the subject.

Along with more unity and interaction between people in Downtown Willoughby, there has also been an evident rise in physical activity. The game has strategically driven users out of their home and into the real world, increasing the amount of people walking, running and biking through the parks and streets. Another daily user of the game, Phil Kelly, claimed, “I never thought I would take a 4 hour bike ride, but I did it!”

This craze has spread and affected a wide range of age groups as well. Many players are fans of Pokémon from 20 years ago, but it doesn’t stop there. “I helped a 60 year old couple play Pokémon GO the other day!” claimed Joe Wagner, another Pokémon GO player of the area.

Pokémon GO players aren’t the only ones effected by the increasingly popular game. Many stores, bars and restaurants in Downtown Willoughby have seen a change in traffic since the game hit the ground running. With many “hotspots” in the area, the game has driven users to DTW and towards local businesses within it. One of the restaurants that capitalized on the influx of traffic in the town is Willoughby Brewing Co. Kicking off June 18th, they have started a PokeMonday for Pokémon GO players. Since a Pokegym, where players battle their Pokémon against each other, is located in front of the restaurant, a player can show a worker they are playing the game between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and get 10% off their bill. If they win and become a “gym leader” at 10 p.m. they get their entire bill taken care of. The first PokeMonday was a success and with the craze increasing day by day, there will be many more successful nights to come.

Another bar that took advantage of the new trend is Mullarky’s Irish Pub. Combining unique shot concoctions with the names of Pokémon and team names, they are bringing the popular game into their bar and intriguing Pokémon lovers. With shots such as Charmander and Pikachu, it gets customers interested with the familiar name all while letting them try something new.

Pokémon GO has changed the dynamic of Downtown Willoughby in many interesting yet positive ways as a whole. It has brought people together and increased traffic to our historic town all while giving insight to the history behind it all. Whether or not this trend will last is unknown, but for now, it’s making Downtown Willoughby a virtual and real life “hotspot”.

Photo credits to Johnny Joo for the incredible photography. Check out his amazing work on his website and facebook.