It's a cold, rainy night in Rotorua's CBD - which is largely deserted apart from a gathering of about 20 to 30 people sitting on foldable chairs clutching hot thermoses.

The uninitiated might wonder what on earth they are doing - well, they are playing Pokemon Go as they do every night, in the same spot, "rain, hail or shine".

When the game burst on to the scene a few months ago, some may have seen it as a passing fad. They were wrong.

Local players will tell you it's helped people make new friends, join communities, feed the homeless and help prevent crime.


Avid Pokemon Go player Mark Hepi said he had been playing since the day the game was released.

"About a month into the game we thought we would try and get everyone together. Now there is about 20 to 30 of us who come to the lures on the corner of Tutanekai and Pukuatua Sts every night for about four hours."

He said when people began playing they were mainly in their cars alone and those playing in the "natural Pokemon spawning areas" didn't know each other.

"We had never met each other before and we come from all different walks of life and all different age groups from 8-year-olds to 60-year-olds. Pokemon has brought us together.

"The game has made my life more sociable. I have made 50 new friends over the last few months."

He said he was normally a shut-in, especially during winter, but the Pokemon managed to lure him outdoors.

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Mr Hepi said when the Thursday Night Market was on the Rotorua Lakes Council sponsored the lures where they normally played.

"It's to get more people out here, there are people coming across from Tauranga and Taupo on a Thursday night.

"Rotorua has been a talking point on many social media pages because we have very high levels. One of our players is on level 39 and he could be the first in the world to reach level 40 if he gets there soon."

He said the group generally met between 6pm to 7pm and stayed until late which meant they learned a lot about the Rotorua nightlife they hadn't known before.

"We see a lot of homeless while we are out, a couple of the girls decided it would be good to bring them hot drinks and food down when they come."

He said the police had even told them that the crime rates in the CBD had decreased a lot because they were out and about.

"We all stay together and make sure we are safe."

Rotorua police area prevention manager Inspector Stuart Nightingale said crime had dropped during the times they were playing.

"We have noticed a drop off of extra offending around certain times around the government gardens and in the city.

"I would encourage anyone who is playing the game to be aware of their environment and to call in if they see anything suspicious," he said.

Tips for playing Pokemon Go:

- As you walk, your device will vibrate to let you know you're near a Pokemon.

- The map contains information that's useful when you're exploring.

- PokeStops are usually at easily identifiable landmarks, such as public art installations.

- Keep an eye out for glowing areas called habitats that indicate where you may find Pokemon.

- A wide variety of challenges are available showing different accomplishments, such as the number of Pokemon caught and the distance travelled.