Gaming: Pokemon Go

In the late 90s, schools around the world took to the Pokemon craze. The game appealed to kids and reflected creator Satoshi Tajiri’s childhood in Japan, where he collected insects and got the nickname “Dr. Bug” reflecting his desire to be an entomologist (one who scientifically studies insects). His creation spawned a multi-billion dollar franchise, a TV show, several movies, and a card game. While it was always available on Nintendo’s handheld devices, Pokemon Go is the first iteration of the franchise to not come out on a Nintendo console.

The game uses augmented reality to simulate catching Pokemon in a real-world environment. To catch a Pokemon, you have to physically go out into the world, visit PokeStops (which can give you items to help you catch Pokemon by swiping right or left) and encounter Pokemon on the way. There are steps that reflect how far away each Pokemon is. When catching a Pokemon, you have to swipe up on your phone. The rings around the Pokemon reflect the difficulty of catching it: green is easy, yellow is medium, and orange is hard. It may take several attempts to catch them, but when you do, you gain experience points and candy, which is used to evolve or power up your Pokemon. Every new Pokemon you encounter in the world gives you additional experience, and certain throws can also grant additional experience. When you reach Level 5, you can pick one of three teams: Valor (Red), Mystic (Blue) and Instinct (Yellow). While it is unknown yet if each team has certain advantages in gameplay, each team represents a certain personality trait. Instinct goes with intuition and trusting your Pokemon, Mystic is about intelligence and wisdom, and Valor is about bravery, courage, and strength.

There are several items that you can use to catch more Pokemon. These items can be obtained by leveling up, activating PokeStops, or using real money to buy the in-game currency, Pokecoins. There are three levels of Poke Balls beyond the regular ones: Great Balls (which unlock at level 12), Ultra Balls (which unlock at level 20), and Master Balls (which never fail, but have not yet been seen in the game as of this writing). Other items include Lucky Eggs (double experience for 30 minutes), Pokemon Eggs (which hatch based on how far you walk). There are 2 km, 5 km, and 10 km Pokemon Egg versions. You can only hold nine at a time, and the longer the walk, the rarer the Pokemon. There are three versions of Potions as well: regular Potions, Super Potions (which unlock at level 10), Hyper Potions (which unlock at level 15), and Max Potions (which unlock at Level 25). These restore increasing amounts of HP.

If you find yourself at one location for a lengthy period of time, you can attach a Lure Module to a PokeStop. You can tell which PokeStops have a Lure Module by seeing a shower of petals surrounding the PokeStop. The Lures attract Pokemon for 30 minutes. Incense is the reverse of a Lure Module—it attracts Pokemon to your location for 30 minutes. Razz Berries make Pokemon easier to catch (unlocked at level 8). Egg Incubators allow you to hatch Pokemon Eggs while walking—you have an infinite use to begin with and can get them while leveling up or purchasing them at the PokeShop. If your Pokemon faints from gym battles, you can use Revive and Max Revives (which are in the game, but are extremely rare). You can also use PokeCoins to increase your bag space or store more Pokemon.

Gym battles are important as well. One team can take over the gym and add prestige to it, while other teams work on bringing down the gym’s prestige and taking it over for themselves. Sometimes it is possible for several different people in the same area to be fighting the Pokemon other trainers have placed in the gym simultaneously, allowing for easy takeovers. This is also a quick way to gain experience if you and your friends are on the same team and are taking over a rival gym. You swipe left or right to evade attacks, tap repeatedly on the opposing Pokemon to attack it, and hold your finger on the Pokemon you’re fighting to do your ultimate attack. Certain elements are more or less effective against one another.

Outside of the game, it has been reported that the game has helped people with a variety of mental
issues including anxiety and depression, and has become a social phenomenon. Nintendo’s market value surged within a week of the game coming out as well. If you’re looking to exercise to catch them all, then take you and your friends out for some Pokemon Go action.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE August 2016 Issue

Words by Jose Alvarez

Developer: Niantic | Publisher: Niantic | Platforms: iOS, Android