If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go yet, I ask you one question. HOW? It’s all over the TV news, in the papers, and on every street. It’s the new reason why people are gathering in local city streets, parks, malls, and attractions in droves, glued to their phone’s display screen.
I’ve become one of those people.
I was a bit too old to jump on the bandwagon when the original version of Pokemon exploded onto the scene in the 90s, but I knew the idea of it because my cousin was a Pokemon fanatic, collecting the cards and knowing each of the creatures by name, stat, and evolution. My minimal knowledge of Pokemon came from the few creatures depicted in the first version of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64.
Let me briefly explain Pokemon Go. The app allows you to seek and collect Pokemon in real time and, using Google maps, your specific area of location. On the screen, your avatar moves when you move, in whatever direction, and along real-world streets through GPS. Even after rolling my eyes about those who downloaded the app the minute it was released in the U.S., I ended up joining in due to the true-to-life map aspect.
So as you travel around (walk, bike ride, skateboard), Pokemon of all types appear on your phone’s screen and you try to catch them using Pokeballs and other items you collect at “Pokestops” located at points of interest in your area such as monuments, water fountains, important buildings, etc. You keep collecting Pokemon, evolve them into their stronger versions, and make them more powerful with their own special skills. Some Pokemon are more rare than others, and some can only be found by certain geological features like bodies of water.
You can also battle Pokemon caught by other app users at “Gyms” (also real life points of interest) who are on a different team (which you select). Through all of this, you gain experience points and level up. You also can hatch Pokemon out of eggs, all by tracking kilometers through the app’s GPS locator. Yes, these are real kilometers logged by real physical activity.
But what’s the point? As the catchphrase says: “Gotta catch ’em all.”
There are about 150 different Pokemon to catch (so far; I’m guessing they will add more than just the original creatures in the future). I personally love collecting the things, as most are pretty cute or fierce looking. I’m still learning all the names.
There’s also another aspect of this game that I love: the community. There are so many people of all ages playing Pokemon Go, and most I have interacted with have been very friendly, very willing to share tips on where to find certain Pokemon and how to play more efficiently, and most are making sure Pokemon catching hot spots are safe for everyone to enjoy, even at night. Businesses are even supporting it as they see their revenue increase thanks to hungry and thirsty Pokemon Go players.
I know it looks a bit bizarre when you see hundreds of people in their teens/20s/30s playing Pokemon Go at the same time — we sort of look like zombies with a hive mind — but it’s also extremely amusing as you’re just as into catching Pikachu as the stranger next to you. It’s a phenomenon I’ve never seen before.
So go ahead, try it. Catch ’em all.