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Metro Detroiters use their smartphones to "catch" Pokemon characters. Robin Buckson, The Detroit News

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Detroit — Like the rest of the country, Metro Detroit is getting caught up in the Pokémon GO craze, with players using their smartphones to “catch” the augmented reality creatures.

Monday, groups of young people could be seen drifting around Campus Martius, eyes glued to their phones. Occasionally, one of them would flick his finger up the screen, high-five a friend and say, “I caught another Drowzee!”

Johnny Pritchett, 24, of Southfield was one of players in the downtown park early Monday afternoon. He said he downloaded the free game two days ago and has already caught more than 30 Pokémon.

“It just brings back a whole bunch of childhood memories,” he said.

Pokémon GO is the newest game in the popular Pokémon franchise and the first one to be released on smartphones.

Unlike previous Pokémon games, Pokémon GO uses Google Maps to turn real locations into game maps, using a smartphone’s camera and GPS to allow players to catch and battle other Pokémon. The game uses augmented reality to place the “pocket monsters” around the competitors.

Players have to walk to different places around them to catch new Pokémon, find Pokéstops where you can collect items or go to a “gym” where you battle other Pokémon. Campus Martius, for instance, has five Pokéstops.

Pritchett said he plays the game while he’s already walking somewhere, but players typically get extra exercise because they have to walk to specific locations to find the Pokémon — often someplace away from where a player intended to go.

Claire Kendig, 21, of Canton, Ohio, who is interning at Quicken Loans this summer, also likes the active nature of the game.

“It’s very quickly created a community,” she said. “It’s funny to watch people around you playing.”

She said that while she was playing the game with her boyfriend and his roommate over the weekend in Ann Arbor, someone shouted at her group, “Gotta catch them all!”

Pokémon GO was the most downloaded free app Monday on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.

Since Pokémon GO was released on Android on July 5 and iOS on July 6, Nintendo’s stock has increased 72.5 percent on Japan’s Nikkei index. Nintendo, which owns Pokémon, is a world leader in video games for gaming consoles like its Wii U, but only began making mobile games in 2016.

The game has become so popular so quickly that some local businesses and organizations are already using it to woo customers.

Guernsey Farms Dairy is advertising that its location on Novi Road in Northville is a Pokémon gym on Instagram. The Detroit Zoo bragged on Twitter that the Pokémon Pikachu had been found on its grounds.

At downtown Detroit’s Checker Bar, a portable blackboard promoted the game Monday, urging players to “drop a ‘lure’ for shot specials.” A lure is placed at a Pokéstop by a player to draw Pokémon.

Meetups surrounding the game are being planned, including a Pokémon GO meetup in Campus Martius Park on Friday, hosted by the Rat and Puff show on 98.7 FM AMP Radio. Another one is being hosted at the Detroit Zoo on July 30.

Kendig said by playing the game, she has found sites throughout Detroit that she didn’t know existed. The game places Pokéstops at statues and monuments and players must get within a certain distance of the landmarks to get the items at a specific Pokéstop.

“People are going around and finding all these landmarks they never knew about,” she said.

But the game’s popularity and users’ obsession with finding Pokémon is leading to safety concerns.

Shayla Wiggens told the Riverton Ranger newspaper in Wyoming that she spotted a body in the Wind River on Friday while playing the new game.

Fremont County Undersheriff Ryan Lee said the death appears to be accidental and possibly a drowning. He said evidence indicates the man went into the water where he was found.

In Missouri, police said four teens used the game to lure victims to a location and rob them.

There have been no reported incidents of crimes in Detroit related to the new game, said police officer Dan Donakowski.

Troy Police Sgt. Meghan Lehman said she hasn’t heard of any crimes linked to the game.

“I’m familiar with it because my nephew was playing it this weekend,” Lehman said.

excarter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2613

Twitter: @evancarter_94

Associated Press contributed.

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