IF YOU are one of the millions of people swept up in the Pokémon Go craze and visiting Pokéstops around the Clarence Valley, take a moment to think of Dan Optland and his group of friends, because if it weren't for them, there probably wouldn't be the amount of Pokéstops in the region.

For Mr Optland and his friends, the adventure started three years ago when they began playing a little known game called Ingress, developed by Niantic, which was originally part of Google. Utilising Google Maps, Mr Optland got an invite from a friend to play the game, and began submitting real life locations and points of interest across the Clarence Valley to be used in the game as portals.

Niantic has now teamed up with Pokémon, with the same locations used as portals in Ingress now Pokéstops and gyms in Pokémon Go.

Pokemon Go player Dan Optland is pictured in the game w ith a
Pokemon Go player Dan Optland is pictured in the game w ith a "Pidgey" Pokemon he lured to a Pokestop at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium. Adam Hourigan

Mr Optland said he is as surprised as anyone at the popularity of the game.

"It's really interesting because I look at it now and I had no idea it would turn out to be what it is, what the game I played has now become with the Pokémon world," he said.

"Since this Pokémon Go game has come out, if you look at places where no-one has played Ingress, there's no Pokéstops, so if it wasn't for the work we did around the valley submitting portals for Ingress, the game probably wouldn't exist like it does."

In three years of submitting locations, Mr Optland had 88 out of more than 400 submissions approved, and travelled 411km on foot playing the game.

Mr Optland said he learned a lot of marking historical locations in the valley to use in the game.

"I didn't realise half the history of Grafton until I started taking notice of the plaques and memorials and things like that," he said.

"We never had any idea that it would turn out the way it did. Things that you usually don't notice when you go outside normally are in the game now, and you can learn things and discover some really interesting things."

Mr Optland said the physical nature of the game, which requires players to go outside and walk around in both Ingress and Pokémon Go, is one of the most innovative features.

"It involves more of the real world, and people who would normally stay inside and play games are getting out and off their backside," he said.

Mr Optland said a Pokémon Go walk was being organised for Saturday morning, with players set to meet at Grafton Shoppingworld at midday on Saturday. For more details, visit the Pokémon Go Clarence Valley Facebook group.

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