Teaming up in Pokémon gyms and eating s’mores and hot dogs once connected the University of Indianapolis Pokémon GO community. With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing a wrench in their plans, the group must mask up and social distance for their meetings, according to mental health counseling graduate student and Pokémon GO RSO Vice President Drew Rosier.
Rosier said that he and co-presidents senior physics major Duncan Hammond and senior creative writing major Savannah Harris, who all act as registered student organization administrators, have held administrative meetings since the first month of the semester. At these meetings, they scheduled meetings and reoriented their initial plans of weekly bonfires to more socially distanced activities, according to Harris.
“[The bonfires were] a nice way to marry the idea of Pokémon GO as a group, but then also the people in it and fostering those connections,” Harris said. “With the guidelines set into place, we were not allowed to spend any money on food …. We are allowed to meet once a month officially, but we have just decided to be a little more cautious about how we are meeting and make sure it is outside in a very open area so we can all practice guidelines and social distancing.”
The RSO administrators want to refocus their efforts toward more game playing, according to Harris. She said they are focusing on meeting up for socially distanced raids, which are group efforts to take down strong Pokémon at gyms. The group is using Discord, a video and text communication app, as the primary mode of socializing and general communication, Harris said.
Recent Pokémon GO updates have accommodated the group’s need for social distancing, according to Rosier. Previously, players needed to be friends in-game for a certain amount of time, but the updates lowered the time requirement, Rosier said. Now players can compete with anyone and do so from a distance, he said.
“I know personally I have taken part in tournaments with upwards of 130 people from all over the world, and we have been able to connect via Discord and share each others’ codes and then just send each others’ stuff remotely,” Rosier said.
Despite the COVID-19 limitations, the RSO status has helped the group by allowing them to advertise on campus, Rosier said. In addition to hanging posters and flyers, Rosier said he has posted about it on the UIndy App.
“The biggest thing is that we want people to join, and we want people to know that [Pokémon GO] is still a thing,” Rosier said. “I just ran into someone I knew from way back in the day in grade school who is now at UIndy… and he has been playing Pokémon GO on campus for a while, he just did not know there was a group. So, we are trying to get the word out there.”
The group began the day the game launched on July 6, 2016, starting out as a Snapchat group chat with Rosier, Hammond, Harris, and a few others, he said. By 2017, the group hit the maximum number of members allowed on Snapchat and had to switch to Discord, Rosier said. According to Rosier, the Discord has around 50 active members.
“When I joined, it was just five or six of us at the beginning of it,” Rosier said. “We knew what could come of it, and seeing it grow has been really nice.”
Many members have talked to Rosier about how they needed something to do besides sitting in their dorms, he said. According to Harris, she finds comfort in talking about Pokémon for a little bit while so much is happening in the world.
“I feel like those comforts can often be left by the wayside sometimes because of everything going on,” Harris said. “Yes, we should definitely focus on the serious issues, but also, it is okay to take time for your mental health and to do things you enjoy, and I think we can provide that as a community [by] having all of these communications, and having these really close bonds and friendship without sacrificing health or taking a large part out of our day.”
Students interested in joining the RSO can e-mail one of the administrators at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to receive the Discord link.