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Burning Man's Supposed to Be Off the Grid, But Burners Are Looking for Pokémon

Can Pokémon Go nerds go a week without catching them all?

by Madison Margolin
Aug 30 2016, 3:26pm

Burning Man. Image: Flickr

As nearly 70,000 festival-goers descend upon the temporary, annual pop-up Black Rock City this week for Burning Man, at least a few Burners may try to keep their phones on in search of Pokémon. But the playa is notorious, and celebrated, for being completely off-the-grid—so will it be possible to find Pokémon there? And are there even Pokémon to find?

Some hopefuls seem to think there will be. The Facebook event "Pokémon Go at Burning Man" has attracted at least 45 people so far and will host a Pokémon Go competition. "Grab some balls, charge up your batteries, we will all 'meet at the man' right 'before' the gates open—and will try to be the first one to catch a Pikachu on the playa in 2016."

On Sunday when Andrew Miller arrived at Black Rock City, he posted a video expressing how excited he was that the Pokémon MewTwo would be at the temple burn (where the actual man effigy is set on fire). He also added that Pokéstops would be going up, as well, despite some logistical conundrums.

"Burning Man's a temporary city, every year the footprint changes. Niantic [the developer of the PokémonGo app] hasn't datamined the accurate locations where this intersection, where this special themed camp are," Miller said in the video he posted on Youtube. But an internet-connected friend assured him Niantic and Google Maps already had the new information. Miller tested it out himself and was actually able to find some Pokestops.

However, while Black Rock City does appear on the Pokémon Go map, USA Today reported there are no Pokémon there anyway. Cell service slows down on the playa as more and more people flood the area. And the organizers of Burning Man have purposely decided not to provide internet service so that participants can be more present, rather than focusing on their phones or the world outside Black Rock City.

While cellular networks have installed temporary service nodes, which are necessary to the festival running smoothly, Heather "CameraGirl" Gallagher, Burning Man's director of technology, said Burners should not depend on them. "There are days we wonder if we should just take away participant network," Gallagher said.

"Most of the time I would say the more disconnected, the better the experience."

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