So it’s a late Friday night and I’m walking to my car, which is three blocks away. I pass by a coffee house, ramen shop and other restaurants on the way. The street is strangely busy with people in small groups, all looking at their smartphones. Then I overhear a couple of them ask another, “Are you the Gym Leader?”
Better get used to hearing that question along with, “I got it!”
This is the new blockbuster mobile game, Pokemon GO. It’s been all over the news and social media. People of all ages are playing this game, that is a mix of augmented reality and geocaching, where you search the streets and try to catch Pokemon.
Pokemon GO was only released a less than a month ago and it has been a phenomenal hit. I downloaded and started playing the day it came out. I was able to catch one Pokemon in my house and check-in to a Pokestop nearby before going to bed. After that one encounter with the game I could not get back in until the weekend, that was days later. So far, I’ve been able to catch a bunch of common Pokemon, like Pidgey, Rattata and Paras in my area. But I did catch a Pikachu, Onix, Growlithe, Ponyta, Eevee, Rhyhorn and a few others.
A few of my friends got in on the beta of the game a few weeks before the launch. They’ve been giving me a some pointers on playing the game. Just in case you are not familiar with the game yet, here is a brief Pokemom Go guide for starters!
At the start of the game, you create your character:
• Choose between male or female
• Limited features, like hair
• Uniform style
• Choose your Pokemon: Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur
Once you are done, you are ready to go out and use your Pokeballs to catch Pokemon.
Some of the things you will notice on your map are:
Small icon structures with a cube above it that changes into a symbol as you get closer to it. Tap the symbol and it opens a disc that you swipe to spin. This action will release bubbles, that you need to tap on, that contain Pokeballs, Eggs, or other items like Revives and Potions. PokeStops are select places, such as monuments, art installations, places of historic interest, stores, shops and businesses.
If you see pink petals floating around a PokeStop, then a Lure Module has been activated by another player. This increases the amount of Pokemon that will gravitate to that area and benefit any other players in that affected area. You can also see what player used the Lure Module.
• Pokemon Gyms
Large tower structures, usually with a colored diamond (yellow, blue or red) and a Pokemon standing above it. This is where you can join and defend the Gym, plus train and battle your Pokemon to increase your Trainer Level. Training at a Gym only increases your Trainer Level and not your Pokemon’s Combat Power (CP). You can team up with other players in attacking a Gym by using your Pokemon to take it down.
You will not be able to interact with the Gym until after you have reached Level 5. Once you have, you must choose one of three Teams to join: Team Instinct (yellow), Team Mystic (blue) and Team Valor (red). The Team you choose does not seem to have any effect on your character or Pokemon, so choose the one you like.
• Tall Grass
This represented by the shuffling of leaves popping up from the ground in random areas on the map. Although this represents the presence of a Pokemon in the vicinity, it does not mean that a Pokemon will appear as you approach the area.
• The Map
The map itself is a graphic representation taken directly from Google Maps using your GPS. So you can see the actual streets, parks, bodies of water and shapes representing actual structures such as, houses and buildings.
• Pokemon Tracker
In the lower right corner is a Pokemon Tracker that will indicate Pokemon in the area around you. The Pokemon icons will move up in the list as you get closer to them. The footprints beneath the Pokemon lets you know how far you are from it as you move in different directions. This is a good way to capture a rare Pokemon.
When you encounter a wild Pokemon on the map you can try to catch it by tapping on it. The screen will change and you will see the Pokemon in front of you with a ring around it. This ring will identify the level of difficulty in catching it: Easy (green), Difficult (yellow) and Hard (red). Pokemon that are not so easy to catch will break out of the Poke Balls and will take multiple attempts to capture them. Flick the Poke Ball, that appears below on the screen, in an upward motion to try and catch it.
Spinning the ball in a circular motion will cause it to sparkle and if you catch a Pokemon with the ball, then a Curveball Bonus will be added to the XP you receive.
Never pass up a Pokemon that appears. Catching duplicates and having them in your inventory is not entirely bad. Some, like Eevee have multiple evolution that can give you a different type. You can also transfer the duplicates in your inventory for Candy. Eventhough you will only receive one piece of Candy through the transfer process, it is what you need to collect to power up and evolve your Pokemon.
POWERING UP AND EVOLVING POKEMON
Doing this takes using Stardust and Candy. You get both when you capture Pokemon and just Candy when you transfer them.
Powering up your Pokemon can make your Pokemon stronger and increase its CP and HP.
It is better to evolve your Pokemon at a higher CP level, making them a more powerful evolved Pokemon. Doing this can take quite a bit of Candy, depending on the type of Pokemon. If you can capture a Pokemon with a very high CP level, it will make it easier to power up as your trainer level goes up.
Evolving will also change your Pokemon’s attack moves randomly.
BATTLING AND TRAINING POKEMON
You can battle a rival Team or train your Pokemon against a trainer from your own Team at the Gyms. If you see activity atop the Gym on your map screen, then there is a battle occuring. You may join in on that battle to help take down the Gym Leader and it’s defenders.
Battles are not turn based like in the original Pokemon games. They are more like real time battles. Swipe to dodge enemy attacks. You can heal your Pokemon after a battle with Potions and Revives.
Training takes place against trainers that are on your own Team.
Make sure to choose the right type of Pokemon to use in your battles. Some types are more effective against other types. For example, fire type are more effective against grass type.
PokeStops will randomly give out Eggs. The Eggs collected are located in your Pokemon Inventory List. In order to hatch an Egg, it must be placing within an Incubator to begin part of the process. It takes a bit of walking to hatch an Egg and it is indicated directly underneath the Egg in kilometers. Driving will not speed up the process of hatching the Egg.
There are two types of Egg Incubators: One has unlimited uses and the other can only be used three times before it breaks.
The game does drain the battery a lot. There are a few ways to reduce the drain of the battery:
• Battery Saver feature. The Battery Saver can be activated in the Settings of the game. To actually make the most of the feature is the way you use it. While you are in the game, turn your smartphone upside down. The screen will black out and you will see a faint Pokemon GO logo appear. You will still get vibrating alerts when you encounter something nearby.
• Decrease the volume level and brightness of the display on your smartphone.
• Turn on the Power Save Mode of your smartphone.
• Use an external battery to recharge your smartphone.
Because Pokemon GO blends real word with the gameplay, you should always play this game safely. This means use some common sense while playing. For example:
• Watch what you are doing and where you are going. The game has you constantly looking at the screen, but your smartphone will alert you with a vibration when you encounter something. Not paying attention can cause you to stop in the middle of the street or cross walk, run into or trip over objects that could cause bodily injury.
• Do not play this while driving. The story on social media regarding a car accident that was caused by a person playing the game while driving was reported to be untrue. But that does not mean it cannot happen.
• Don’t go playing this game in an unfamiliar area, with very little foot traffic at odd hours, all by yourself. If you plan to, then it’s probably better to travel in a large group. Be aware of your surroundings and what is around you. An area like Hollywood Blvd. has lots of PokeStops and Gyms to explore.
• Be respectful of where you stop to play the game. Some of the locations being used as a PokeStop or Gym in the game are real places like homes, churches, offices, store fronts, restaurants, police stations, etc. These can be considered private property and you could be trespassing or loitering.
POKEMON GO PLUS
Coming soon is this small accessory that lets you play Pokemon GO without having to look at your smartphone while moving around town. It connects using low energy Bluetooth and will alert you, via LED and vibration, when you are nearby a Pokemon, PokeStop or Gym. The device will also allow you to check on PokeStops and throw Pokeballs to catch Pokemon. It can be worn in many different ways, like on your wrist or held in your hand.
POKEMON GO AT SDCC
Pokemon GO will be in full effect at San Diego Comic-Con for sure. I can pretty much guarantee that attendees will be playing the game while roaming the already congested show floor. There will be a Pokemon GO panel scheduled in Hall H on Sunday. It was previously to be held in a smaller room, which only held around 450 people, but with the massive success it has received it was moved to the main room.
I play as much as I can, when the servers are working for me. I chose to join Team Mystic because I like Articuno more than Zapados and Moltres.
Overall, I really think this is such a fun game and It gets players outside and moving around, instead of sitting in front of a TV playing a game. Yes, there are some big problems with the game (server issues, restarts depending on your login, screen freezes, connection problems) that need to be fixed pretty quickly. Especially the server and login problems. I made the mistake of starting my game using the Pokemon Trainer Club instead of Google and that is where most of the problems are. A different problem from those is that players just really need to use more common sense while playing the game. Safety and being aware of your surroundings should be a priority while playing Pokemon GO.
I can’t wait until they introduce the next wave of Pokemon from the games, since the only ones currently seen in the game are from the first Pokemon game. Just after launching, I have seen so many Pokemon GO meetup events show up in my social media feeds. There is even supposed to be a meetup at Disneyland, which supposedly has a lot of PokeStops.