Gotta catch ’em all, right?

Pokemon has been a phenomenon since its inception in 1996, with the release of Pokemon Red and Green (Red and Blue in the US). It’s hard not to have heard of it, even in passing, in the 21 years since. But if you’re unfamiliar with Pokemon at large, here’s a brief explanation on how a standard game works.

The concept of the Pokémon universe, in both the video games and the general fictional world of Pokémon, stems from the hobby of insect collecting, a popular pastime which Pokémon executive director Satoshi Tajiri enjoyed as a child.
Players are designated as Pokémon Trainers and have three general goals: to complete the regional Pokédex by collecting all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where a game takes place, to complete the national Pokédex by transferring Pokémon from other regions, and to train a team of powerful Pokémon from those they have caught to compete against teams owned by other Trainers so they may eventually win the Pokémon League and become the regional Champion.

-Taken from the Wikipedia page

Pokemon GO is the only major Pokemon game to be featured as a mobile app and functions very differently than your standard game.

Pokemon GO was developed by Niantic, a company already popular for their mobile game Ingress, which served as the base framework for the GPS-based Pokemon GO.

Pokemon GO requires constant GPS and Mobile Data (or WiFi) to function properly, so be advised if you don’t have a good plan with Data and allow your kid to play. However, from experience, the game does not typically use too much Data, but it does take a toll on battery life after a few hours. Always keep a spare battery pack nearby just in case.

Every player, after creating an account (Through the Pokemon website or Google) is given the standard choice between the original starting Pokemon of Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur, and are greeted by Professor Willow, who specialises in the distribution of the Pokemon population.

Willow explains that Pokemon can be found by walking around the real world, and can be caught using your phone. Water-type Pokemon can be found near ponds and rivers, grass Pokemon in forests, et cetera.

The GPS-provided Pokemon GO overworld will look something like this. The blue cubes are called PokeStops, and act as landmarks where users can collect Pokeballs, berries, and other items. Pokestops can be anything from notable statues, monuments, murals and churches.

Players can also use real money (through Paypal or credit cards) to purchase in-game tokens, which can be used to buy more inventory space, more Pokeballs to capture Pokemon with, or Pokemon Lures, which can be deployed at Pokestops to increase Pokemon sightings for all nearby players for a half hour. Pokestops with lures appear to have cherry petals floating around them and are a good indicator of where to find fellow players.

After reaching level 5, trainers are given a choice between three teams led by Professor Willow’s students. The teams are as follows:

Team Valor, led by Candela, believe that power, strength, and passion are the most important elements of the Pokémon world. Valor’s mascot is the Legendary Pokemon Moltres, a great flaming bird.

Team Mystic, lead by Blanche, believes that calmness, wisdom, and intellect are the way to go. Team Mystic’s mascot is Articuno.

Finally, Team Instinct led by Spark believes in going with the flow, and that instinct and trust in your Pokemon will lead to victory. Team Instinct’s mascot is the lightning bird Zapdos.

Instinct is currently the smallest team, as a poll from the Pokemon GO subreddit indicated that only about a quarter of all players choose Instinct, with roughly 40 and 35 per cent of players going to Valor and Mystic.

This has led to the characterization of Blanche and Candela being highly competent rivals, locked in friendly competition, but with Spark being a somewhat goofy character with little professionalism. This is just fan characterization, though. Little is known about these team leaders aside from their philosophical standpoints on Pokemon.

As an Instinct player, I can say that we’re fine being underdogs.


Now, onto the last thing that you’ll see on the overworld: Gyms.

In standard Pokemon games, Gyms are challenges, and after defeating the Gym Leader, the player is presented with a badge, and are allowed to challenge another Gym.

In Pokemon GO, Gyms are territory markers. A Gym can have up to 10 Pokemon stored inside at any given time. A Gym is claimed by defeating all the Pokemon that a prior team has stationed inside. For example, if I, as an Instinct player, were to defeat a level ten Valor Gym (As if…) It would revert to a grey gym, and I could store a Pokemon inside to turn it into a level one instinct gym.

Inevitably, this gym would be ransacked by the more numerous Valor and Instinct teams within a few hours or days, but that’s how it works.

There’s no end goal to Pokemon GO, just to catch more Pokemon and become a better trainer. Recently, Niantic released the second generation of Pokemon, the 150-ish created for Pokemon Gold and Silver so we can expect new additions to this game for years to come.

So that’s Pokemon GO. A mobile app designed to get your kids to go outside for once, and catch virtual monsters and train them to capture landmarks for bragging points.

Now you can play too, if you want, and be a rock star!