NEW YORK (AP) — Too busy with your real life to play the hit augmented reality game "Pokemon Go"? For a price, some entrepreneurs will play the game for you.
New ads are popping up on Craigslist nearly every day from people who say they will log on to your "Pokemon Go" account and effectively run up your score while you are stuck at work or sitting in class.
On a recent July afternoon, two 24-year-old Pokemon "trainers," Lewis Gutierrez and Jordan Clark, walked through Brooklyn's Prospect Park with their eyes glued to their phones, tapping and swiping away to catch virtual Pokemon for clients paying about $20 per hour for the service.
Gutierrez, who described himself as a welder and writer, said he began by helping relatives with the game after it was released in the U.S. in early July. Then he put a post on Craigslist advertising his services professionally.
He said he was immediately inundated with requests from potential customers and had to recruit Clark, a part-time wine purveyor, to help.
"I couldn't even do it by myself," Gutierrez said. "I had two phones. I was doing, like, ten-hour days and I got my friend Jordan to come along with me. And now it looks like we are going to have to hire another person. So, it's just been booming."
The two college friends liken the service to dog walking and call themselves Pokewalkers.
And they aren't the only ones getting in the game. One trainer in London offers to boost your Pokemon account up to Level 20, which is very high, for a price of $185. Others offer Uber-like driving services with the promise of taking a player to some of the hottest Pokemon hunting grounds around the city.
Played on smartphones, "Pokemon Go" has been a phenomenon since its release. The game involves going to real-world locations to chase virtual characters from the classic Nintendo game.
Paying people to play a game for you might seem to defy common sense, but Gutierrez and Clark say clients come to them mainly for two reasons.
They want to compete in the game at a high level, but they don't have time to roam the city and play the game all day. Or, they are getting ready for a "Pokedate."
"It's a good first date for Tinder," said Clark, referring to the location-based dating app. "A lot of people are meeting up that way." Some want to impress their potential partners by being in the game at a respectable level.
Leveling-up services aren't unique to Pokemon Go.
The clandestine practice already occurs with online multiplayer role-playing games such as "World of Warcraft" and "Destiny," where paid professionals help clients gain the necessary experience and resources in the game to compete at a high level when they are actually playing for themselves.
Publishers of such titles deem the act cheating and warn they'll cancel accounts of users who enlist outside assistance to mine for virtual currency or level up their characters. The terms of service in "Pokemon Go" explicitly forbid the practice of transferring access to an account to a third party.