MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the gaming craze that’s swept the nation, if not the world. Pokémon Go is all anyone can talk about lately, including Natalie Nyhus. That left her wondering where the best place is to play the smartphone game. Your votes sent her to the biggest mall in the country: Mall of America in Bloomington.

From Crystal Pepsi to Full House, the 90s are making a comeback. And one of the biggest resurgences from that epic decade: Pokémon. David Echo O’Donnell is the head of PokéCon MN, and a total Pokémon fanatic.

“It first came out in 1996. It was a video game and they released a card game, and the anime,” he said.

Books, apparel, TV, and millions of fans followed. Now the latest and most phenomenal iteration of the game is Pokémon Go.

“The game is pretty simple. It’s based on a GPS system,” Echo said. “Pokémon Go is a game where you travel around the country searching far and wide looking for Pokémon,” said Echo.

It’s not virtual reality, it’s augmented reality where the video game and real life overlap.

“Augmented reality takes virtual items and superimposes them into the real world,” Echo said.

Through your phone, you can see animated Pokémon in your actual surroundings. Those are the guys you want to catch and collect, like a treasure hunt.

“The endgame is to catch all 151,” Echo said.

You can Pokémon Go anywhere, but your favorite place to play is at the biggest mall in the country. And just like Pokémon, the Mall of America was born in the 90s.

“Our first Pokémon event was in the 90s,” Mall of America Senior Experiential Manager Christopher Grap said. “People filled the rotunda trading cards, playing the physical video game together. They had to be in that space.”

Now, you can play in the entire mall. With four floors and four miles, players spend hours upon hours searching, exploring and collecting.

“We clocked it, and if you do one lap of every floor, you can hatch a 5k egg,” Grap said. “It’s an easy game for people to get involved with. What better place to play. It’s clean, safe, indoors and we have 12 places to get coffee.”

And if your phone is what needs fueling, there are plenty of outlets and places to buy chargers if you end up stuck with a dead phone.

“That first weekend it hit, no one was prepared. Retailers were running out of chargers. People were all over trying to find places to charge,” Grap said. “It is a sign of the times. As technology moves, we have to move with it. You have to adapt.”

And adapt they have, to a massive game that reaches across all social and physical boundaries.

“Pokémon has transcended generations,” Grap said. “My generation grew up with it. I have an 11-year-old son who is very much into Pokémon. I thought they had gone away, but they are back with vengeance.”

If you play at Mall of America, you can also participate on social media with the hashtag #PokeGoMOA. They have free Wi-Fi so you don’t have to eat up all of your data.

If you want to check out PokéCon MN in October with Echo, click here.

Your other favorite spots to play are downtown Minneapolis and the State Fairgrounds.

Comments (2)