Fun fact for you all: I had never actually played a Pokemon game. Of course, I’ve known something about the series for a while, mostly through a combination of cultural osmosis and having friends who’ve played them extensively, but it wasn’t really something I’d ever gotten into.
And then Pokemon Go was released on July 6, and needless to say I have become a fan.
For the maybe 10 people who don’t know, Pokemon Go is an AR, or augmented reality, game for mobile devices, developed by Niantic, Inc, and published by The Pokemon Company. The premise is simple: Pokemon will appear on a map as you wander around, and you can then use your phone to “catch” them, and then power up and evolve them into new Pokemon.
The app uses your camera so you can have your surroundings serve as a backdrop. Certain businesses and landmarks also serve as Pokestops (where you can pick up items like Pokeballs, potions, and eggs you can hatch by walking), or gyms (where you can battle other Pokemon or claim it for your team). I should also note that you can turn off the phone background options if you wish as well (which, incidentally, makes Pokemon easier to catch since they’re not floating around. It’s probably also a good idea if you’re prone to motion sickness).
It uses GPS to track where you are and to notify you of Pokemon in the area, as well as to determine if you’re close enough to use Pokestops or do battle at gyms.
An aspect of the game I’m sure you’ve probably picked up on is this: it’s actually getting people to exercise and explore their towns. There have been stories about people starting conversations with strangers or learning more about the histories of their cities (a lot of historical markers are stops). Hell, I walked almost 6 miles yesterday and 3 and a half today playing this game, which is how I learned about the absolutely gorgeous nature trail in the middle of the city where I live. I’ve so far only ever caught one Magikarp there, but I absolutely did not mind:
Also, I once very briefly took over a gym in my neighborhood, a feat of which I was disproportionately proud.
There are criticisms of course. Apparently some people who weren’t watching where they were going have had accidents (like getting hit by cars for instance), but I really think that’s more a lack of common sense than anything wrong with the game itself. I’ve also heard stories of people using the app to rob people, but am unsure as to their veracity. There are also a lot of issues with the server going down (this happened a lot on Sunday afternoon due to more than 47 million people trying to log on at once). I also wish that there were more character customization options. While I love my trainer, I really wish I could make her look more like me. Also, like pretty much any other game in existence, there are microtransactions. The game, as it currently stands, is also not very accessible to people who have mobility issues.
Also, if I could make a few recommendations:
1) Invest in sunscreen. I did not put any on today, was wearing a tank top, and am super-white, so I look like I’m wearing a bright red bib right now.
2) If you’re wearing sandals, look out for pointy sticks or rocks.
3) Stay hydrated, especially since it’s the middle of summer in the northern hemisphere.
That said, stay safe and happy hunting!