IT is a craze which combines computer gaming and smartphones with time spent walking outside in the fresh air.
Now hundreds of Scots have downloaded augmented reality game craze Pokemon Go! and are trawling the cities and countryside to find tiny creatures hiding all over Scotland.
The game uses the clock and GPS functions on a phone to make Pokemon characters – based on the 1990s Game Boy hits – “appear” around a player, through their phone screen. The player then has to “catch” the Pokemon as they walk around the real world.
The game, which officially launched in the UK today, has already been downloaded by eager gamers ahead of the official release. Savvy Pokemon fans changed location settings to play the game via American servers.
Game developer Niantic had planned to officially roll it out to Britain faster, but the company’s servers were unable to cope with the demand from players in the US and Australia, where it was launched last week.
It is estimated that around 500 to 1,000 people in Scotland have already downloaded the game, although it is believed that tens of thousands could join in once it is officially launched on this side of the Atlantic.
David Graham, 27, an analyst from Livingston, has founded the Pokemon Go Scotland Google Plus community, which has almost 100 members – and downloaded the game onto his iPhone almost as soon as it launched.
He said: “People are travelling far and wide to find Pokemon. Someone posted recently that there was a rare one in Motherwell, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people head over there at the weekend to find it. I’m going to Paris in September and I can’t wait to see what I find there.”
He added: “I was determined I was going to wait for the UK release, but once the hype started, I just had to be part of it.”
Anne-Marie Keane, 33, from East Kilbride, said the game had become entertainment for the entire family – including five-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
She said: “My husband started playing last week and introduced our five year old daughter to it. I have honestly never seen her so excited to go out walking our local area in the rain. I then started playing, so we have something to do during these grey summer holiday days and honestly it has been a godsend.
“This game has helped me keep my eldest occupied whilst my youngest naps in the car as we drive from pokestop to pokestop. We spent all weekend walking our local area too. It has been fantastic.”
In Scotland, numerous Facebook pages have been set up where players can help each other locate Pokemon.
However, some players have found the lack of technical support frustrating.
Player Omar Kooheji from Glasgow’s Drumchapel area wrote on the Pokemon Go Scotland Facebook page, which has 350 members: “I think I’m packing in active Pokemon-ing until they sort out the server issues. We’ve had two dog walks in a row ruined by me having to stop every ten steps to shut the app down and re login.”
Some players around the world have found their Pokemon hunt has led them to hospital rooms, office buildings and toilets.
Meanwhile, one Pokemon Go fan in Wyoming found a dead body while searching for a Pokemon character, while police in Missouri, in the US, warned that a group of criminals had used the craze to try to lure in players to locations so that they could rob them.
One Reddit user, Colin Spence, offered fellow players a tip off to find Pokemon in Scotland’s most famous loch.
He wrote: “Fun tip: Catch Lapras & Gyarados at Loch Ness”, referring to different types of Pokemon monsters.