Take a walk in a busy downtown area, or even just along the street in a suburb, and you’ll see them— people with their heads bent over their smartphones as they stride along. At first, you might think they are texting; but then you notice some erratic behaviors— the way they hold their smartphone to one side or the other, or the way they stop suddenly or change direction for no apparent reason. Sometimes they swipe energetically at the smartphone screen, then break into an elated smile and do a fist pump. These aren’t your typical smartphone users from early 2016. No, these are Pokémon Go players.
Maybe you’re just wading into the Pokémon Go culture already, or maybe you’re standing on the shore, curious but skeptical. Here’s what you need to know about the game.
Pokémon Go Is Free.
Sure, there are things you can purchase, such as more Pokéballs, incense, lure modules, and more; but for the most part, the game is free. Just download it to your smartphone, open the app, and you’ll see your first Pokémon pop up within minutes.
The More Pokéballs You Have, the Better.
All you really need to play the game is a large supply of Pokéballs. You can gather them up at Pokéstops, which show up as twirling blue diamonds on your game screen. Where are the Pokéstops? They could be any notable local landmark—the church down the street, the neighborhood park, the library, a downtown plaza, or the courtyard fountain in front of your office building. When you get close enough to one of these Pokéstops, touch it, and a disc shows up with a picture of the landmark. Swipe across your smartphone screen to spin the disc, and your prizes will pop out of the Pokéstop. You might get a couple of Pokéballs, some Pokémon candy, Razz Berries, and other goodies.
Pokémon are Everywhere.
Whenever you have Pokéballs on hand, you can catch Pokémon— and Pokémon will show up wherever you go, in neighborhoods, stores, shopping malls, your home, your workplace, parks, and streets. If you have the Pokémon app open on your phone, you’ll feel a buzz and hear a notification sound, which lets you know that a Pokémon just appeared nearby. If you tap the Pokémon, your phone switches to augmented reality mode, which means that the Pokémon will appear to be standing right in front of you, on the park bench, under the table, on your friend’s lap, or in the grass. Of course, the illusion only works when you’re looking at your phone; but it’s still a cool effect.
Catching Pokémon Is Easy.
Catching your first Pokémon feels so simple, so easy, that it’s almost impossible not to get hooked. Every time you feel that buzz and see another Pokémon, you’ll get the urge to catch it. Once you tap on it, just flick the Pokéball at the bottom of your screen towards the Pokémon with your finger. It takes a little practice, but if you can hit the Pokémon on the head, it will be zapped into the Pokéball. Sometimes the more powerful Pokémon will pop back out again, and you’ll have to try a few times or bribe the Pokémon with a Razz Berry. Either way, there’s a real sense of satisfaction when the Pokéball stays shut and the gold stars sparkle, signifying that you made the catch.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
Thanks to Pokémon Go developer Niantic, our world is now populated with Pokémon. Millions of people have downloaded the app and are exploring new places in search of Pokémon and Pokéstops. Churches, libraries, concert halls, and other buildings of note have been transformed into gyms where Pokémon trainers can battle each other for rewards and for dominance. No one knows how long the Pokémon Go movement will last, but for now, it’s a shared experience that is taking our minds off the darker aspects of our world and letting us live, for a while, in a simpler reality.
What’s the rarest or most powerful Pokémon you have caught so far? Did you choose Mystic, Instinct, or Valor? Let us know in the comments.