'Pokemon' Games Turn New York Shopping Mall Into A 'Pokemon GO' Gym, Owners Convert Lobby Into An Arena

Pokemon games have been a hit with children of all ages since they were just trading cards. Now with the invention of Pokemon GO, trainers are getting out more and getting social in hopes of "catching 'em all."

One of the features of Pokemon GO is that it took major landmarks and public places and made them into "gyms," or places to stock up on Pokeballs, lures, and even battle other gamers for supremacy and claim the gym as their own. This has resulted in some positive and negative responses. Some businesses felt the game was intrusive to their business and asked developer Niantic to remove them from the game's locations. Homeowners were furious and felt it invaded their privacy when their houses had become gyms.

Others, such as a shopping mall in Albany, New York, have embraced the newfound popularity. Instead of turning up security to cut down on "mall rats," the Colonie Center turned its lobby into a Pokemon arena. It might annoy non-gamer shoppers, but at least the Pokemon game is giving the kids something to do while their parents or whoever browse the local Macy's and such.

Back in the 80s and 90s, ironically when Pokemon first became a popular video game for Nintendo's revolutionary portable GameBoy, "mall rats" were a problem in shopping centers. Junior High and High School children would gather and just hang out, sometimes becoming obnoxious pests. They would occasionally buy something from skate shops and other "hip" stores just to make their friends think they were cool. Others would find the video game arcades and take part in a room full of noisy machines and fierce competition for the ultimate high scores.The eventual porting of many arcade games to home consoles eventually drained gamers from the malls, and with the invention of online gaming, arcades had become a thing of the past. Now thanks to Pokemon games, some malls might see a resurgence in social gamers. Unlike your average Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat crowds, Pokemon GO gamers might actually be quieter in general as they take on rivals in public, the way Ash and other Pokemon game protagonists often do in their worlds.

Colonie Center in Albany went all out, decorating the lobby with Pokemon posters and flags, and painting a giant Pokeball on the floor to let gamers know what they've walked into. It's possible that the mall might even hold public tournaments to draw even more of a crowd and boost business.

If more indoor malls across the United States and other consenting nations take this idea on, we might see a new influx of business in shopping malls. Parents won't have to worry as much about keeping their children occupied as they do their shopping if Pokemon GO and other augmented reality games start attracting crowds in the indoor malls. It's basically converting the old "mall rat" problem into a business booster.

Pokemon GO creators Niantic and Nintendo are now considering partnering with businesses as sponsored locations in the game, so it might not be long before shopping centers like Walmart or Target, and fast food chains like McDonald's, build their own lobbies as places for Pokemon trainers to gather and stay out of trouble. This might make it easier for regular shoppers to find what they want without worrying that someone's children might step out in front of their rolling shopping cart.

If Pokemon games can draw new customers to local businesses and indoor malls, gaming might begin to shed its negative public image for parents.

[Feature image via Matthew Corley/Shutterstock.com]