Walk down Granville street or go to any public park these days, and you’ll see them. Shambling like zombies. Eyes unblinking and fixated on their phones. Pausing awkwardly every few steps to point their cameras at an imaginary "pidgey" floating in the sky.
These are Pokémon trainers, and they're playing Pokémon GO, Niantic Labs' GPS-based cellphone game.
Technically, the app’s not even available in Canada yet. But that hasn't deterred Vancouverites from finding a way to take part.
The game is based around tracking a player’s GPS signal as they walk around the city going to real-world landmarks, called "Pokéstops" in-game, and attempt to catch Pokémon.
Most of these Pokéstops are the kinds of places you’d expect to find treated as landmarks; Historic signs and plaques; statues and monuments; a few well-known restaurants. Some savvy business owners have set up lures to attract Pokémon (and thus customers), and even Forbes magazine highlights this new trend.
Others are bit odder. Here are a few of the Pokéstops from around Vancouver that we’ve found that left us scratching our heads.
Nothing says hunting for Pokémon quite like running into an alley to look at some graffiti. As visually striking as both of these murals are, why they became Pokéstops instead of the the myriad other graffiti all over Gastown, is a mystery.
Praying for Pikachu
Maybe you've decided to take up a new religion. Whether you're considering Scientology or worshipping at "the holy temple of commerce" (RBC), these are both listed as Pokéstops. Head on over and you'll be able to add to your already no doubt burgeoning collection of Rattatas and pidgies.
Beware the lies of Dunbar
On the surface, these two look pretty normal. But look a little closer.
You'll see that even though these Dunbar street Pokéstops are there, the landmarks no longer exist.
Not only is the Spirit Bear no longer in the parking lot of Stong's Grocery, but Stong's itself has moved. Today, the building is little more than rubble.
Similarly, the mural on the side of the Shoppers Drug Mart just down the street has been very noticeably painted over. Still, it's a Pokéstop awaiting discovery by the thousands of aspiring Pokémon trainers in Vancouver.
Interestingly, Pokéstops were generated from data from Niantic Labs' previous project, Ingress (2013), a game in which two teams fight over real-world points of interests (city landmarks), and link them together in triangle patterns on a map to control the area.
Some landmarks have disappeared between 2013 and today, but the Pokéstops are there today, standing as virtual memorials to street art of eras past.