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Thousands mix up ‘Pokémon Go’ with pub crawling

'Pokémon Go' players pub crawl across Sacramento

Pokémon trainers are participating in the first 'Pokémon Go' pub crawl in Sacramento. The event was organized by Sac Social Club to bring people out and support local businesses.
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Pokémon trainers are participating in the first 'Pokémon Go' pub crawl in Sacramento. The event was organized by Sac Social Club to bring people out and support local businesses.

With more than a touch of gray in his hair, James Draggoo laughed at himself while he sat in a bar full of 20- and 30-somethings compulsively playing the popular mobile game “Pokémon Go.”

The joke is that he’s just as obsessed with the game as the younger players he eyed from his bar stool.

In fact, he’s on its 17th level, a status he acquired by capturing digital creatures on his daily hourlong run. That run is more like 100 minutes now, accounting for his frequent “Pokémon Go” stops.

“It’s ridiculous for a guy my age to be playing this,” said Draggoo, 56, of West Sacramento.

Draggoo and his wife, Robyn, had lots of good company Saturday while they enjoyed the new game. They were among the thousands of people who turned out for a “Pokémon Go”-themed pub crawl through midtown Sacramento bars.

The event was organized by a pair of Sacramento roommates soon after the “Pokémon Go” craze made the augmented reality game one of the most-downloaded mobile phone applications. The game’s buzz looked like an opportunity for a couple of guys who wanted to “show off Sacramento” by luring people to midtown.

“We struck while the iron was hot,” said organizer Joseph Gutierrez, 28.

More than 3,000 people indicated on Facebook that they planned to attend. Crowded scenes in the early afternoon at Barwest on J Street and Der Biergarten on K Street suggested that many of them were showing up.

“It’s pretty cool seeing the community coming together. We need this right now,” said Van Valer, the bar manager at Goldfield, which also participated in the pub crawl.

I’ve been playing quite a bit. I’m on level 19. I sprained my wrist last week. Skateboarding, it makes it easier to play, not easier to skateboard.

Jarret Derfield, a bartender at Der Biergarten

In the cellphone game, digital characters appear as if they’re in real places. People walk to parks, businesses and other landmarks to capture the creatures.

“I’ve been playing quite a bit. I’m on level 19. I sprained my wrist last week. Skateboarding, it makes it easier to play, not easier to skateboard,” said Jarret Derfield, a bartender at Der Biergarten.

At Barwest, Pokémon-themed decorations hung from the ceiling. Fans wore Pokémon-style T-shirts featuring the so-called Pokéballs players use to capture creatures in the game.

Gutierrez carried a megaphone and called out Pokémon sightings. As a crowd gathered around him he drew attention to a Raichu, a mouselike Pokémon.

“Everyone went kind of crazy for that,” he said.

Outside, a couple entrepreneurs sold mobile cellphone charges so people could continue playing without searching for a plug.

“This is a drain on the battery,” said Tyler Zweigle, 29, of Grass Valley.

He and his wife joined Sacramento friends for the pub crawl. They made some new ones, too, sharing a table at Barwest while they charged phones and hunted Pokémon. Normally, they go for walks in the foothills to snag Squirtles and Charmanders. They looked forward to a day of bar-hopping.

“We play any moment we can, whenever I get a break at work,” Zweigle said.

What can you look forward to at tonight's Pokemón Go pub crawl through midtown Sacramento?

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton

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