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Pokemon Go takes over Portland streets

PORTLAND, Ore. -- If you've noticed more people than usual staring down at their phones while walking, there's a good chance they're playing the wildly popular new game, Pokemon Go.

Millions of people have downloaded the smart phone app since it launched last week. It's the first game to use augmented reality and GPS at the same time.

As you walk in the real world, the game follows along on a Google-style map, and little cartoon characters called Pokemon pop up that you can catch within the game.

The more places you go, the more you get.

"I'm walking around doing the Pokey-stops, and I actually just stepped in a puddle and everybody made fun of me but whatever!" laughed Kai Ventura, who took a MAX train into downtown Portland from Hillsboro to play.

Nearby, at the south park blocks, three boys ages 12 and 15 were on a journey downtown from Beaverton.

"First we took a bus then we took a MAX and we just walked here," said Aaron Vanauker, 12. The game puts more points in heavily trafficked areas and gets people outside and moving.

Older brother Jack Vanauker loves the sense of community it's created.

"All my friends are playing it, and yesterday we ran into 15 people all at one location playing it and we talked about the game and it was really fun."

One feature of the game for more advanced players is the "lure" module. Players can earn them in higher levels or buy them through an in-app purchase using real money. The lure promises a Pokemon pops up to capture every 60 seconds. The goal of the game is to get as many of the digital creatures as possible. 150 are possible in this first version, more will be released in the future.

The boys placed a lure at the park blocks where we were talking with them to demonstrate. And within seconds, over a dozen other players on their phones started walking toward us.

"They are probably playing. They're probably trying to mooch off of our lure," Vanauker said. It's a real-time, GPS beacon to whoever, good or bad guys.

The lure appears on other players phones, and you walk toward it to capture Pokemon.

But it can be dangerous. In Missouri, three teens used it to rob 10-12 people of their wallets and phones. A woman playing in Boston brings up kids playing alone tweeting, "I've gone to Pokelures two more times since then with this same kid and am starting to get to know him. Creeps could do the same."

Portland Therapist Kerry Ogden specializes in technology and parenting. She's learning about the game because of her young son.

"With something like this, I would say get involved by actually going on the hunt with them," she said. Ogden says parents can turn it into a lesson of awareness of surroundings, and deception online.

"Tell your kids to buddy up with somebody. This is one where we really gotta trust what our kids know, and don't let your kids do it if they're at an age where they can't quite make those decisions."

KGW checked with all the local police and sheriff's departments in the metro area. All had heard of the game and seen people playing this weekend, but no crimes have been reported because of it. According to data compiled by the group Similar Web, people are spending more time on Pokemon Go than anything else. Twice as long as Snapchat, and four times longer than Facebook.

Nintendo owns the game, and since it launched last week, their market value has shot up by $9 billion.

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