Balboa Park: Come for the Pokémon, Stay for the Culture
If you’ve visited Balboa Park in the past week, you’ve undoubtedly noticed more folks than usual are walking around with their snouts glued to their cell phones. What could possibly cause people to spend more time looking down at a five-inch screen than at historic architecture, gardens, and landscaping? You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s a game, and not just any game, but a Pokémon game.
Yes, Pokémon is back. And much to the iconic game franchise’s credit, it has figured out a way to combine swiping at virtual objects on a screen with going outside and discovering new places, both close to home and anyplace in the world you travel.
So just what is it about this magical app that has led tens of millions of people to download it in just one week? Like the original game did in the 1990s, Pokémon Go feeds on our insatiable hunger to collect things. If you need proof of that, just look at the vast collections housed at the various museums in Balboa Park, which have amassed everything from insect specimens and model trains to historic airplanes and fine art.
Pokémon Go turns players into technologically advanced hunting dogs who are tasked with tracking down and catching cute animated creatures who now seem to inhabit the very world we live in. There are scores of different Pokémon to collect, and each type of geography or environment features certain types of Pokémon creatures.
The way the game is set up, Pokémon tend to cluster around points of interest on a map, making Balboa Park, with its many landmarks and public buildings, ground zero for Pokémon hunters in San Diego. In fact, Balboa Park has no less than 25 PokéStops, places in the game where players can fetch in-game supplies or eggs that can hatch new Pokémon, or install a lure to draw Pokémon to the area. Players can also take advantage of Balboa Park’s free Wi-Fi.
What many players may not realize, however, is that Balboa Park is not only the region’s number one location for Pokémon, it’s also the cultural heart of San Diego, featuring dozens of world-class museums, performing arts venues, award-winning gardens, and historic architecture. So once you’ve collected all the Pokémon lurking in Balboa Park, you might want to check out the many objects on display in the Park’s museums that humans have found important enough to collect and preserve for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Where will your Pokémon collection be 100 years from now?