"The online community is wonderful," Heaps said. "The Silph Road, specifically, tries to keep all discussions positive and fosters a place where new and veteran trainers can gather to thrive." In its latest iteration, the game is a lot more extroverted. Heaps made friends in his hometown after becoming an admin for his local Pokémon GO Slack group. "I invited them all to my wedding!"
Whiteman said he hasn't necessarily become buddies with anyone he's played with, "but I definitely have met people because of the game that I wouldn’t have met otherwise," thanks to interacting with other players online and gathering local groups for raids. Slater-Williams joined a Facebook group for special raid days and has even begun to recognize some familiar faces during the game's "event" days. "A lot of parents come out for those with their kids, which is sweet."
It's not just the Pokémon die-hards who are still playing. Smith considers herself a "passive fan" and yet she plays "almost daily." "I legit don’t even know most of the Pokémon released in the last few updates." Chicago-based player Eric Rudkin, for example, just likes having something to look at on routine walks to and from the nearby train station. "Plus, I've found some pretty cool parks that are just a little bit off the beaten path of where I would've gone if I hadn't been trying to get over to a stop." Smith, too, enjoys the active aspect of the game. "I like that I can walk around and have a clear goal," she said. "It’s not too easy and it’s always expanding."
There are plenty of things to keep people playing: Team Rocket goonies posted up at gyms have been rumored to hit the app quite soon, the promise of newer generations (Whiteman wants a Sylveon, the fairy-type Eeveelution), and newer ways to play the game (Slater-Williams, who now has the Pokémon GO Plus accessory, hopes for a Heracross, one of the game's region-exclusive Pokémon only available in Central America) are enough to keep most players logged on. There are plenty of players hoping to catch 'em all, but there are more who just enjoy the sense of community. "The reason I still play is because I have friends that play," Heaps said. "Most everyone I have met through the game is kind and inclusive. Pokémon people are really great people."