If you feel like you’re in the dark about this whole Pokémon Go thing, fear not: allow me to enlighten you! I, too, once was blind, but now I see! You probably remember Pokémon as being a card game that little boys played in groups back in the late 90’s, that accompanied a Saturday morning cartoon of the same name. In doing my research, I learned that it was actually created for Nintendo Game Boy back in 1995. So why are people of all ages now obsessing over this mobile version? More importantly, what exactly is it?
Pokémon Go is a free mobile app. While you have the option to use real money to buy in-game currency, you certainly don’t have to, and the game is actually more fun if you have to use your time and energy to get further in the game (because it means you physically have to go out into the world and interact with other people to advance).
The game uses your phone’s GPS for your real-world location, drops an avatar of yourself onto a map of your area, and then shows you where to go to catch Pokémon. Unlike with most games, you have to physically go to the location in order to “catch” the Pokémon (Which, by the way, simply means “pocket monster.”). Your collection of little monsters is stored away in a Pokédex, where you can break them out later at your local “gym” to battle them against other, real-live people’s collections. The players are referred to as trainers…like a dog trainer, but a little, virtual, monster trainer instead.
OK, now, what the heck is this “gym?” Once you get to level five in the game, you’ll have access to these gyms where you can battle another trainer one-on-one, using your collection of Pokémon. (Each Pokémon has a “CP” designation, or combat power designation. The higher the CP, the stronger it will be in battle.)
A blue diamond marker on your map will indicate a Pokéstop. These are places where you can interact with other trainers or pick up other items important to your game.
To get started, download the app, open it and sign up with either your Google account or a Pokémon Trainer Club account. You’ll get a brief how-to tutorial before three Pokémon pop up on your map. Swipe your finger across the screen to throw a Pokéball at it (which captures the creature). Practice makes perfect! After this, you’ll be able to explore the app. Look for blowing leaves, which indicates a hidden Pokémon. Highly populated areas tend to have more Pokémon and Pokéstops.
A word of caution: There have been news reports of people getting into trouble all for the sake of Pokémon. A couple in Toledo, Ohio were arrested for breaking and entering into the zoo, after jumping the fence to play the game inside. There have also been several reports of people being lured into unsafe areas and robbed, all with the lure that Pokémon would be at the scene of the crime. The best way to avoid criminal activity is to use common sense when playing. Don’t go to unfamiliar, isolated places at 2:00 a.m. for example… On the whole, the game is harmless fun, so don’t be scared.
Pokémon Go combines gaming, physical activity and meeting new people, so you can see why it’s catching on. It’s OK to geek out; it’s for a good cause! As the game says, “Gotta catch ‘em all!”