Little did we know, that in the middle of July 2016, one of the biggest app-based crazes was about to rocket through the world and dominate everyone’s mobile devices. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game developed Niantic, available on Android and iOS devices, and it has conquered the mobile world. Similar to how the original Pokemon game dominated audiences young and old when it first released on Nintendo’s Game Boy back in the 1990s, Pokemon Go has established an audience that crosses all borders and demographics; all ages, genders, and other barriers that tend to separate us. Pokemon Go is a culture, a phenomenon, and the best part? The game is free to download, free to play, and we’re going to show you how to get onboard right now! Read on, for details…
Pokemon Go can be an absolute blast, regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with the long-popular series of Pokemon games. The franchise has remained widely played across many generations of video game devices, ever since Pokemon Red Version and Pokemon Blue Version first hit game stores back in the mid-90s. Pokemon Go, however, is the first time that the franchise has ever migrated from a dedicated video game console to make its home on smartphones. I’d say that Nintendo is learning a trick or two about how to entice mobile crowds, but as we’ll find out, Nintendo wasn’t all in on this particularly project.
The basic premise of Pokemon is this: the game exists in a fictional reality, populated with fictional countries, characters, and…you guessed it–creatures called Pokemon. When you take up one of the games, you play as a “Pokemon trainer,” a young character just starting out in their fledgling career as someone that wanders the world battling and collecting the creatures. Capture them, train them, breed them, and battle them. More important than all of those (and you can’t tell me you’ve never heard this before), you’ve “gotta catch ’em all!”
Even though Pokemon Go is far different from any other Pokemon game that we’ve ever seen, you’ll find out that the premise is very much the same. When you start the game, you’ll select and customize your avatar; your own personal Pokemon trainer. You’ll be wandering our world rather than the fictional one, but you’ll still be engaging in most of the activities that are the trademark of the series. Some elements are still missing, but based on the word of Pokemon Go’s developer, Niantic, those missing features are well underway in development.
We’ll get into the finer details of Pokemon Go below, but know this before we get started–if there’s even an ounce of your being that thinks this craze is too nerdy for you, throw that out the window right now. Everybody is playing Pokemon Go, and even though you’ll hear the occasional odd story on the news about it causing some sort of trouble, the social impact that it’s brought with it is immense.
How Do I Get Pokemon Go?
Even though Pokemon Go is technically a “freemium” game, I can safely say that you don’t have to spend a single cent on it in order to have an absolute blast. There are other ways that it can rack up costs for you apart from its offered in-app purchases, though, so keep reading to find out how to make this game truly free.
To get started, head to either the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store, depending on whether you have an Android or Apple device. Search for Pokemon Go, download, and install! It’s really that simple, but I strongly recommend ignoring the multitudes of third-party applications that have cropped up in the wake of Pokemon Go’s popularity. You don’t need them, and most are just looking to cash in on the ongoing trend, providing services and information that you can find online, for free.
Getting Started with Pokemon Go
When you first boot up Pokemon Go, you’ll have two ways to get started. You’ll be required to create an account and sign in, and you can either use an existing Google account (which is easiest) or create a dedicated Pokemon Trainer Club account. What are the benefits of each? How do you know which to choose?
- Pokemon Trainer Club: Nerd alert! If you’re planning on playing more Pokemon games in the franchise, and especially future Pokemon games when they’re released (such as the two coming later this year) I recommend signing up for a Pokemon Club Trainer account. You’ll be able to use it in more Pokemon games than Pokemon Go, and it can result in you getting plenty of cool benefits later on down the line. You can either sign up through the Pokemon Go app itself or through the dedicated website, here.
- Google Account: Casual users can check in right here. If you have a Gmail account, you can use it to create a Pokemon Go account with just a few simple taps. This is the best choice for casual players who aren’t normally into gaming (and there are millions); it will allow you access to all of the same features as anyone else playing the game, and your signins will all be easy, thanks to the way that the app remembers your information.
Once you’ve created your account, it’s time to design your Pokemon trainer. There aren’t many options to choose from, at the game’s release. Your trainer can either be male or female, and you’re able to select from a smattering of different skin tones, hair styles, and clothing options. Nothing fancy or elaborate, but choose wisely! There’s no way to alter any of these choices once they’re finalized, though it may be an option that Niantic adds to the game later on.
Playing Pokemon Go
Once you’ve designed your trainer and been introduced to Professor Willow, you’ll be given the option to choose between three “starter” Pokemon to begin the game with. You can either select one, or try a special trick that only a few people know about. If you repeatedly walk away from these three starter Pokemon, your new friend the Professor will catch on to your disinterest, and set you up with a Pikachu instead. You know, the rotund, yellow, rat-shaped Pokemon that’s become the standing trademark of the series? Yeah, that one.
In the original games, your starter was a much more significant choice than it is in Pokemon Go. Previously, you’d be using your first Pokemon to do most of your “battling” until you were able to catch more, but in the mobile game by Niantic, there isn’t a heck of a lot of battling (yet.) Therefore, pick whichever is the most appealing to you, and get started!
You’re going to be given a handful of items right off the bat, but the most important of them is and will continue to be the PokeBall. Pokemon Go takes advantage of your phone’s GPS and persistent data connection to determine where you are in the world. Consequently, it populates the real world map with Pokemon that can be found and caught!
Note: Pokemon Go can eat up cellular data like popcorn! Make sure to keep track of your data usage, before it becomes costly!
When you get within range of a Pokemon–as indicated by the ring around your avatar, on the screen–it will show up in proximity to you, usually announcing itself with a unique sound. Tap the Pokemon to try to catch it!
If you have the augmented reality option turned on, Pokemon Go will use your phone’s camera in order to show you the Pokemon in the real world, which is a cool feature! Using a PokeBall, you’ll swipe in the direction of the nearby Pokemon to try and catch it. Swipe harder to throw farther, and hold down on the PokeBall to wait until the ring that you see around the creature is as small as it possibly can be!
In the bottom right corner of the screen, you’ll see a small box that displays a set of tracks. Give it a tap, and it will open up the “Pokemon Radar.” This gives you an approximate listing of the Pokemon that are closed to you, and also tells you how far away each of them is. One track means it’s only a few yards away, two tracks means it’s relatively close, and three tracks mean you might have a short hike in store! This feature is currently not working quite as intended, and occasionally proves to be a bit glitchy. Niantic is said to be working on it.
All around your geographic location, you’ll see small blue markers on the GPS map. Each of these is a “PokeStop,” and if you visit them, you can gain XP for your trainer, as well as restock on things like lures, incense, Pokeballs, and other items that will aid you in your Pokemon hunting.
Hint: PokeStops reset every five minutes, meaning that if you’re out for a walk or a jog, and you go past the same spot more than once, you can hit those PokeStops more than once! Never pay for items from the in-game store!
You’ll also see larger icons on the map, usually indicated by flash, flair, bright lights and colors. These are Pokemon gyms, and once you’ve chosen a team to compete for (see below), you’ll be able to battle your Pokemon against those that currently own the gyms to try and “take them over.” Having a Pokemon in a gym that your team has claimed will result in beneficial XP and coins that you can use in the in-game store, so once you’ve selected your team, put on your game face!
Choosing Your Team
Reaching level 5 in Pokemon Go won’t take you particularly long, and once you do, you’ll be given the choice to choose a team to represent–Red, Yellow, and Blue, or Valor, Instinct, and Mystic. The online community has absolutely run away with the mud-slinging from team-to-team, but it’s almost all in good fun, and there is no “right” team to choose. Pick the theme and aesthetic that best suits you, and head out there to conquer some gyms!
This brief guide has been a primer for all things Pokemon Go, but check back often for more coverage, tips, and guides to this increasingly popular game! Niantic has a runaway hit on their hands, and based on what we’ve heard from the augmented reality developer thus far, the initial release of Pokemon Go is only the tip of the iceberg.