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In some rural areas, Pokemon not such a go

Marketplace Contributor Sep 5, 2016
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Brogan Heising, 10, and Rourke Heising, 8, really want to play the new popular game Pokemon Go. But living outside of Finley, Wash., in the country, that’s not an option for their summer break Anna King

In some rural areas, Pokemon not such a go

Marketplace Contributor Sep 5, 2016
Brogan Heising, 10, and Rourke Heising, 8, really want to play the new popular game Pokemon Go. But living outside of Finley, Wash., in the country, that’s not an option for their summer break Anna King
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Jim Heising and his family live on a farm way out in southeast Washington. Their crops skirt the dramatic Columbia River and a sprinkler click, click clicks away over vibrant green alfalfa. They recently moved here from the Bay Area. And then Pokemon Go came out. And then when they tried the new game, it became instantly frustrating, Heising said.

“It seems like everyone else in the world is having this great fun with it,” he said. “But out in the middle of nowhere — it’s not that easy.”

People who live in the country and who want to play Pokemon Go have a big problem.  It’s not easy, because — there are no Pokemon to catch. Just a blank map. A yawning blue and green screen. 

After trying and trying to play, the family got excited when they actually spotted a Pokemon on their trap. 

“And for whatever reason, we kept walking and walking and walking and it didn’t get any closer,” Heising said. “So it was like the GPS signal or the Wi-Fi signal or something wasn’t really, really good out there.”

Then, there’s the cell service way out here. One of Heising’s four children, son Brogan, shows how the game won’t load on his phone. As he watched, he said, “Loading, loading, loading.”

We contacted the game founder, Niantic, to check out why Pokemon stops are scarce here. We never heard back.

Jenn Turner of New York City.

Jenn Turner of New York City.

But simply: Outside software gurus say the game’s foundation was laid down by geocaching players. So fewer players mean less Pokemon stuff to interact with.

In a larger, nearby town we caught up with Jenn Turner. She’s a freelance writer in Brooklyn, visiting her folks here in the much smaller Richland, Washington. She said the biggest difference between the Big Apple and the apple capital? 

“I’ll open up my map and I’ll just see stops [in New York],” Turner said, “like stop after stop after stop.”

She means the amount of Pokestops — where players can restock their potions and Pokeballs, the things that help a player catch and compete with their Pokemon.

In Richland, Turner said it’s a very different game.

“I had to walk, like, a mile, to get to the first Pokestop,” she said. “And my parents, like, asked me to look at the map and tell which direction we should head … and I was like, ‘I don’t know; maybe a half a mile before the next gym or stop or anything.’”

On the fruit ranch, Jim Heising said his kids were disappointed in the rural Pokemon experience, but it wasn’t long before they returned to real-world fun games of a summertime farm.

“Lots of walks, riding bikes, shooting BB guns, lots of barbecues, mowing the lawn, taking four-wheel drives,” Heising said.

Then he and two of his oldest sons Brogan, 10, and Rourke, eight, jumped on a four-wheeler headed down their long, straight driveway. Heising and his boys kicked up talcum-like dust in the heat as they sped toward the blue of the Columbia River.

 John Go contributed to this report.

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