HANFORD — Local video game players have learned that whether it comes to rare Pokemon or stories about Kings County’s past, you can “catch ‘em all” at the Hanford Carnegie Museum.
The museum has been hosting tournaments for the astoundingly popular cellphone game, “Pokemon Go,” which brings in fans of all ages and backgrounds, museum general manager Patricia Dickerson said.
The tournaments, held weekly on alternating Thursday and Friday evenings, draw Pokemon fans from as far out as Lemoore, Visalia, Fresno and McFarland.
“We all actually talk to each other. If it hadn’t been for this, none of us would have ever met,” Dickerson said.
The museum manager said that it’s been beneficial for the museum and for fans of the game, as it gives fans a central -- and safe -- meeting place for players and in between “battles,” visitors will browse the museum’s displays and take in local history.
Dickerson said that the game tournaments attract people of all ages, mostly young adults, that may not have otherwise been interested in the museum or even knew about its existence. The tournaments usually draw in about a dozen people per week to enjoy pizza, soda, snacks, each other’s company and each other’s Pokemon.
“We’re slowly building and we’re getting new people in all the time,” she said. “That’s the big thing — getting new people in.”
The game also promotes exercise, as a vital component to gameplay is walking around, phone-in-hand, searching for Pokemon — video game characters — in real-world locations.
The game uses real-life landmarks as in-game attractions. Players may find a rare prize if they can make it to the Hanford Fox in time, for example, or they can restock in-game supplies by visiting “Pokestops,” located at places like the museum, the Civic Auditorium or China Alley.
China Alley serves as a Pokemon gym, in the game, which took the LT Sue Co.’s Arianne Wing and Steve Banister by surprise.
“The first time I heard about it, we were waiting on customers and they said, ‘I don’t know if you know this, but this place is a gym,’” Banister said.
“We thought they said, ‘gem,’” Wing said, laughing.
There are over 500 active members in the Hanford Pokemon Discord group, a communication and messaging app for gamers. Locals who play weekly at the museum range in backgrounds and ages. The regulars include hospital workers, teachers and volleyball coaches, among others.
Koreena Henderson, 23, has been playing the game since 2016 and said the appeal of the game, aside from catching all the “shiny” rare Pokemon is getting out of the house and meeting new people.
Local teacher Paul Hyer, 43, has been playing for almost 3 years and said the game was beneficial for him after having recently moved to the area. Playing the game helped him explore his new neighborhood in Lemoore, as he would walk around town playing the game as a way to learn about notable spots downtown and beyond.
“I could point out historical spots to my kids, so it made walking around with them more interesting,” Hyer said. “I’d rather walk around while playing a game than while doing nothing,” he said.
Information about the tournaments can be found at https://thesilphroad.com/map#8.76/36.0679/-119.1067 or www.facebook.com/HanfordMuseum.