Real-life Pokemon Go scavenger hunt draws a crowd on first day

[Editor’s Note: Post originally appeared on SILive.com, where I was a breaking news intern from Jan. to Aug. ’16.]

“Gotta catch ’em all” took on a new meaning Saturday as curious Staten Islanders scattered throughout the borough to find real-life Pokemon figurines and win prizes.

Michael Perina, owner of Assembyl 3D Printing in Stapleton, came up with the idea for the scavenger hunt to capitalize on the game’s popularity. He created 500 plastic figurines based on the characters — including Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur — and hid them near the highly popular Pokemon Go game’s “Pokestops.”

If a player finds one of the figurines, they can cash them in at a local business, a pizzeria or store, for instance.

Andrew Palma, 12; his brother, Thomas, 10, and Nicholas Colandrea, 10, were among those hunting for Pokemon — both the figurines and the digital ones — at Willowbrook Park on Saturday morning.

“There are three Pikachus nearby!” Andrew exclaimed when he turned on the app on his phone. “We have to go find all three of these.”

The boys said they found out about the augmented reality game from family and friends, and their parents convinced them to participate in the scavenger hunt.

“I didn’t even know [Pokemon has] been around for a longtime,” said Nicholas’ mother, Danielle Colandera. “But I think it’s a great that it’s getting kids to exercise, because we go out every night now.”

“It’s a phenomenon,” Andrew and Thomas’ mother, Andrea, said of the Pokemon Go experience.

Of the Pokemon they’ve caught so far, Andrew said his favorite is Snorlax while Thomas and Nicholas said they prefer Pikachu.

Perina said his scavenger hunt got off to a good start Saturday after initial concerns that people might not be able to find the figurines he hid.

“I went out to scout and started running into people everywhere; it’s really cool,” he said. “It’s a lot more people than I expected to play.”

The hunt continues until all of the figurines have been found, but Perina said he may add more based on its popularity. More details will be announced on the scavenger hunt’s Facebook page.

“I’ve never ever seen so many people infatuated like this before,” Perina said of the Pokemon Go phenomenon. “Even though they still have a phone attached to their hands, they’re outdoors.”