These days, your social media feed is likely inundated with folks downloading and playing the revolutionary “Pokemon GO” for the first time. Available for iOS and Android, it has already become a top-selling app, crashed servers, and almost-singlehandedly saved Nintendo. The game seems well on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon, and people are obsessed with the notion that they gotta, gotta, gotta catch ’em all.
So, what’s the fuss all about? Read on for your primer — then download the game and get to work. Because like Ash Ketchum leaving Pallet Town, you have a journey to begin.
How it works
Once you’ve downloaded the app, customized your trainer and chosen a starter Pokemon (Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle), you’re ready to begin. The big selling point of the game is that you’re merging real life with gameplay in a way we haven’t seen before. Using your phone’s GPS and camera, the game takes your immediate surroundings and transforms them into an immersive gameboard.
The Google Maps-like interface will show your avatar navigating a map, searching for Pokemon creatures in the wild. In real life, you’ll need to walk around your own neighborhood and keep checking your screen — when a Pokemon appears, it’s time to catch ’em! If you want to really get into character, don’t forget your red baseball cap.
Improve your technique
At first, you’ll be surprised by how tough it is to catch the Pokemon. So, here are a few tips to help:
— If you see rustling grass on the map, walks towards it; there is a Pokemon hiding inside.
— If a Pokemon has one footprint under its picture, it is very close; two or three footprints means it is further away.
— When you attempt to catch a Pokemon, the game factors in your throwing style, what kind of Poke Ball your using, and other factors. Experiment a bit, and choose wisely.
— When you see a ring inside the circle, throw the Poke Ball when it is at its smallest.
— Having trouble getting near Pokemon? Use incense; it draws Pokemon toward you for 30 minutes.
Although the game does frequently warn you of this fact, “Pokemon GO” is a game that is played not in your living room, but out in the real world. That means if the game tells you to walk across the street, in real life that street might have a moving automobile. If you find yourself in some remote location looking for a Water Type, you might discover something far more horrifying. If the game tells you that there’s a Sandshrew inside that police station, you can also expect to find real-life police officers who won’t be thrilled by your request to go snooping around in the holding cells.
Get to the gym
One of the coolest parts about the game comes after you’ve reached Level 5 in your training. At that point, you can join a team (Red, Yellow or Blue) and locate a Gym (found at real-life locations around the world) where your Pokemon can do battle. Working together with other trainers, you can increase your Pokemon’s prestige and keep control of the Gym. But watch out — other teams will try to challenge you, especially if your prestige is low.
Watch out for the rip-offs
Like so many other gaming breakthroughs, “Pokemon GO” will undoubtedly result in a gold rush of creators attempting to use the technology in similar ways. So, enjoy the game while you can — because in a year or two, the entire world will be full of bleary-eyed people staring at their phones and obliviously walking across four lanes of traffic while they search for Disney characters, Simpsons, My Little Ponies and who knows what else.