Pokemon Go a campaign weapon for presidential candidates

A woman playing Pokemon Go in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, in Washington, DC, on July 12, 2016.
A woman playing Pokemon Go in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, in Washington, DC, on July 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The global phenomenon Pokemon Go has made its way onto the US presidential campaign trail with the staff of both major candidates appealing to users of the smartphone game to catch voters.

The viral game uses smartphone satellite location, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train the creatures for battles.

In a campaign address last week, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton talked about her hope to channel the app to lure voters.

"I don't know who created Pokemon Go, but I've tried to figure out how we get them to have Pokemon Go to the polls," she said.

Clinton staffers have since been cruising the streets looking for Pokemon hunters, hoping to divert their attention for the few minutes it takes to register to vote.

At a recent event in Ohio, the Democratic campaign encouraged players to come to its "lure module" - a feature that brings more Pokemon to a given location - to "get free Pokemon" and "learn more about Sec. Hillary Clinton!"

"These two Pokemon traders just registered to vote!" tweeted Joe Makielski, an organiser for the Colorado Democratic Party, along with a photo of two young men.

The campaign of Clinton's Republican rival Donald Trump is also trying to take advantage of the game's popularity, recently posting on Facebook a parody video called "Crooked Hillary No" showing the Democratic candidate getting hit and disappearing.

The free Pokemon Go app, based on a Nintendo title that debuted 20 years ago, was adapted to the mobile internet age by Niantic Labs, a company spun out of Google last year.