The Pokémon media franchise - which consists of video games, manga, anime, trading card games, toys and more - has been around since the mid-1990s. It was thoroughly revitalized with the introduction of the Pokemon GO mobile game in July 2016. The pocket monsters are back and they are more ubiquitous than ever.
What Is Pokémon GO?
The fundamental idea behind the Pokémon GO mobile game is very similar to many other Pokémon games that came before it. Players take on the role of a trainer whose objective is to catch, collect and train the various 'pocket monsters.' Some of the best-known Pokémon include Pikachu, Charmander, Pidgeotto, Bulbasaur and Jigglypuff.
Pokémon GO is offered as a free-to-play mobile game for the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms. The app itself is free to download and play, but players are given the opportunity to spend real money to purchase in-game currency and items.
The game is especially unique for two key reasons.
- It utilizes the GPS feature on the smartphone to determine a player's real world location, and the player must physically go to actual real world locations that correspond to in-game locations.
- The smartphone camera is used to provide an augmented reality (AR) experience. Pokémon appear as if they are in the real world, superimposed on what the phone's camera actually sees.
Players catch and collect the different Pokémon characters as they appear in the game. They are then given the opportunity to level up and 'evolve' the Pokémon into more advanced forms, entering the creatures into battles with other Pokémon.
Early on in the game, players are forced to choose to be a member of one of three teams, competing against players from other teams.
How to Download
The initial launch of Pokémon GO only made the game available to users in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. As a result, many Pokémon fans from other regions sought out alternative, unofficial and unsanctioned approaches to acquire the mobile app. For example, it is possible for an out-of-country user to create a U.S.-based iTunes account to access the U.S. iTunes App Store. Some Android users 'side-loaded' the application files (APK) directly, though malware was found in some versions being distributed online.
Some terms may already be familiar to people who have already played other Pokémon games in the past, whereas other terms are specific to the Pokémon Go mobile game.
- Candy: Used to enhance and evolve Pokémon. Can be acquired in-game by hatching eggs, catching Pokémon, or transferring Pokémon to Professor Willow.
- Combat Power (CP): A numerical indicator of the attack strength of a Pokémon.
- Egg: Found at PokeStops and in other locations throughout the game. Hatch into Pokémon after being put in an incubator.
- Gym: Landmarks (in-game and in the real world) where Pokémon do battle. Gyms belonging to your team can be used for training. Rival gyms belong to other teams.
- Hit Points (HP): A numerical indicator of a Pokémon's health. When this figure reaches zero, the Pokémon will faint and cannot be used in battle.
- Incense: Used to lure Pokémon to your location. A Lure Module is a more powerful version of incense.
- Incubator: Used to hatch a Pokémon egg after you have walked a specific distance.
- PokeCoin: In-game currency that can be purchased with real money to exchange for premium in-game items.
- Pokedex: A catalog of all the Pokémon you have encountered in the game thus far.
- PokeStop: A specific in-game location where players can collect items like eggs and Poke Balls. Spin the Photo Disc when you arrive to receive items.
- Poke Ball: Used to capture 'wild' Pokémon found in the game. Different types of Poke Balls offer different advantages.
- Stardust: Used to power-up Pokémon. Earned by hatching eggs, catching Pokémon, and defending gyms.
Game Playing Tips and Advice
If you want to "be the very best, like no one ever was," then heed the following advice.
- Playing Pokémon GO can consume a lot of battery life on your mobile device. Minimize this impact by reducing your screen brightness, disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use, downloading offline Google Maps, disabling the augmented reality feature, and enabling the battery saver mode in the game itself. Bringing an extra USB power bank can be a good idea too.
- Keep collecting even low-level and common Pokémon. They are worth trading to collect extra candy to level up your more important Pokémon.
- Don't drive and play. Texting behind the wheel is dangerous enough. Staring at a screen and throwing virtual Poke Balls while driving is astronomically more dangerous and irresponsible.
- Respect private property. Pokémon GO has been known to lead gamers to some very strange real-world locations, including churches and graveyards. Do not pursue a gym, PokeStop or rare Pokémon if it means trespassing on private property or disrespecting your neighbors.
- The number of 'feet' underneath Pokémon in the 'Nearby' listing indicate the relative distance to that Pokémon. If the number of feet increases, you're getting further away.
- The color of the capturing circle indicates the difficulty of catching each Pokémon. Green circles are easy, yellow circles are moderate and red circles are hard.
- PokeStops with pink flowers have active lures and will likely be surrounded by wild Pokémon.
- Different Pokémon appear at different times of the day.
- Pokémon that are common in some locations may be rarer in others.
Unsurprisingly, children (and adults!) can get very excited about the prospect of playing Pokémon GO. However, because the game is online and integrates real-world activity, it can pose some serious risks.
- Parents may be wary of allowing their children to roam public places in search of rare Pokémon. Players may also 'lure' other players into battle, possibly in secluded areas, which can be especially scary for parents.
- Children will likely be staring at their smartphone screens the entire time, almost oblivious to their surroundings. Distracted walking may lead to physical injury and harm. The possible significant increase in screen time may also be problematic. The app can also consume a lot of wireless data and players may not be able to reach all locations using Wi-Fi alone.
- Children may intentionally or unintentionally trespass on private property, putting themselves in possible danger from the property owners or security personnel. The GPS integration may also mean that strangers can track the physical location of players, including children.
On the plus side, the very nature of the game encourages children to go outside, explore, and partake in physical activity as they track down their favorite Pokémon and collect items at all the PokeStops. It's also fun, free and educational. It may even help people battling depression.
Gotta Catch 'em All!
The unique use of augmented reality and the astronomical popularity of the brand have helped to propel Pokémon GO into the mainstream conversation. With millions of users determined to catch Pokémon as their real test and to train them as their cause, who will be the very best?