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Pokemon Go players aim to raise visibility
Melissa Trundle uses her mobile device to show the features of a Mewtwo, a hard-to-catch Pokemon character. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON —  Pokemon Go is still going strong in Effingham County. 

Two groups that include a total of more than 500 members play the free augmented reality mobile game regularly. They use the GPS in their iOS or Android device to locate, battle, capture and train virtual creatures (Pokemon) which appear as if they are in the players’ real-world location.

The game became a worldwide phenomenon when it debuted in 2016 and it never went away. The past year was its most lucrative as it generated an estimated $900 million through in-app purchases.

Melissa Trundle is a leader of Rincon Pokemon Go, which recently split from Effingham Pokemon Go. Trundle’s group prefers to limit its Pokemon searches to the Rincon area.

“We’ve got players from six years old up to 65,” Trundle said. 

Trundle has played the game since its inception.

“I actually taught my children how to play the original game,” she said.

The game was enhanced shortly after its debut.

“I checked it out and I got hooked,” Trundle said with a laugh.

Trundle’s affinity for the game deepened after she realize she had captured a few rare “regional” Pokemon while on a trip.

“They are only found in Florida and that’s where I started playing,” she said. “I had something.”

After establishing a Pokemon Go account through a free app, players create their own avatars, which are displayed on a map based on geographic location. The map includes “PokeStops” and “Pokemon Gyms.”

At Pokestops, players combat Pokemon characters on their own. Pokemon Gyms are for team play.

The players stay in contact through “raid chats,” which serve as alerts for a Pokemon Gym confrontation. The chats take place on the Rincon Pokemon Go Facebook page.

Depending on what the Pokemon is, two people to 20 players may be needed to catch it.

There are more than 700 Pokemon characters. The hardest one to nab is Mewtwo, which has multiple strengths and few weaknesses. Primarily gray with a long, purple tail, it is a bipedal, humanoid creature with feline features. 

Trundle’s goal is to collect them all.

“I know it’s crazy,” she said. “Don’t ask me why.”

The game can cost money if players opt to enhance their power through in-app purchases instead of winning Pokestop or Pokemon Gym battles.

“If I can teach someone not to spend money on something that they can get in the game free, I’ll do it every time,” Trundle said.

Trundle makes no apology for loving Pokemon Go. She believes it has helped her recover from lymphoma.

“I kid you not. I have ‘chemo brain’ and it drives me crazy,” she said. “This has helped a little because of the strategy that you have to work on.”

Trundle, now free of the disease, endured chemotherapy for three years. She has achieved Level 40 in Pokemon Go, the game’s highest. Still, the game remains a challenge to her.

“Just because you go jump into a raid does not mean you are going to beat it,” she said. “It all depends on the strategy and what you take in there with you.” 

Pokemon Go players occasionally receive resistance from property owners when raids, which last about 15 minutes, are launched on their property.

“A couple of churches have erected gates to keep us out,” Trundle said. I wish they had just told us (to stay out) rather than go to that extent. Fortunately, we have some churches that have welcomed with open arms.

“Goshen United Methodist and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have.”

Rincon Pokemon Go is thinking about getting t-shirts that will help identify its players..

“One of our members owns a t-shirt shop so we have discussed it,” Trundle said.

Trundle also said the also group plans to raise its profile through community service projects.

“We’ve done one with Effingham Pokemon Go,” she said. “We all got together and did a hot dog fundraiser at Baker’s Pond and donated $400 to Manna House for Thanksgiving.”

Trundle said power washing the picnic tables at Goshen United Methodist Church is on their to-do lost.

“And hopefully, we can add a table or two to what they already have,” especially since they opened their arms to us so big, she said.

Trundle said her group doesn’t mean to be a bother.

“We are trying to figure out things that we can do to play that aren’t going to mess with anybody,” she said. “We just want to play our game.”

Trundle said Rincon Pokemon Go is always open to new members.

“We have become a very close family,” she said. “We try to look out for each other.”

 Trundle can be contacted through the Rincon Pokemon Go Facebook page.

“Sharing your information is part of the fun,” she said. “Not all players are at the same level. No question is a stupid question.

“We want to share.”