CHICAGO -- Pokémon GO, the virtual mobile game that swept the country, turned one on Saturday. To honor the milestone, those still playing the game traveled from near and far for the first ever Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago. But what was supposed to be the largest ever meet up of Pokémon GO Fans, soon turned into a meltdown of technological proportions.
Organizers of the fest said they were giving attendees refunds due to the game not working at the event.
Tens of thousands gathered in Grant Park on Saturday to play in the virtual world of Pokémon GO.
Kamury Nava came all the way from Phoenix to catch a Pokémon called "Kingdra."
“When I first heard about this I was online trying to get my tickets real quick and my buddy came with me too," Nava said.
Twenty-thousand tickets sold out in 30 minutes.
“The Pokémon popping up everywhere, it’s like a dream come true,” Nava said.
But the dreams fans waited in long lines for quickly turned sour.
“The servers are down. We can’t catch anything, so we can’t play," Lulu Rodriguez said.
Issues with cell reception and game servers left thousands blind in a virtual world where time was of the essence.
"It just says, 'Fail to log in,'" Eloy Corral said.
One of the players said they were disappointed.
"That’s what we’re here for is to play and if we can’t play what’s the point of being here? We’ve been in line since 9, we were wrapped around and we just got in here and we can’t play," Rodriguez said.
“There’s been some latency for us as well. And we’re on it and we have the whole Niantic team making sure this will be a good experience for the fans today," Mike Quigley, Niantic, said.
Not long after, there was some better luck. But it was still going slow for most.
Others like 15-year-old Nicholas Lindblad didn’t seem as bothered by what was going on. He’s a fan of the game but the technical issues didn’t seem to faze him. Not after the long road just to get here.
“He was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome which means the left half of his heart never developed,” Cathy Lindblad, Nicholas' mom said.
His mom and dad were also in Chicago and shared the story of their son's 77 days waiting for a donor heart two years ago.
“While waiting for the heart, they did an evaluation of him and they found a tumor on his spine, which was on the T5 and they thought everything was going to be fine and eventually it moved on him and he lost the use of his legs from the waist down. They thought he’d be paralyzed for the rest of his life,” Dan Lindblad, Nicholas' dad said.
“Right around that time, this app called Pokémon GO came out and it got him out of the house and it got him walking to build his strength up," Nicholas' mom said.
That’s why in a virtual world of technical blunders, the 15-year-old’s real life journey has given him perspective and appreciation for the game itself.
“It got me out and walking because of the game. And my legs just got stronger because of going out and playing the game and walking,” Nicholas said.