From 6 July lucky Pokémon fans in Australia, New Zealand and the US were the first to have access to the highly anticipated augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go. The UK and Europe followed shortly after, with Japan being the most recent release. Although the rest of the world still awaits the official release, many people have found alternative ways to get their hands on the game. The game’s popularity skyrocketed in the first week of its debut and has surpassed apps such as Twitter and Tinder in its short existence.

Pokémon Go uses your phone’s built-in GPS, speedometer and pedometer in order to create a virtual world of Pokémon, superimposed on top of our own. The user must then explore the game by walking around in reality. Niantic, Pokémon Go’s developers, wanted to create a game in which players need to get off their couches and go get some exercise in order to progress. Another result of this is helping Americans learn the metric system, as all distances are in kilometres.

After creating your avatar, the first thing all players need to know is how to catch all the original 151 Pokémon. Once a Pokémon appears on the map, tap on it and get your Pokéballs ready. A coloured ring will be seen around the Pokémon, with green indicating the easiest to catch and red indicated the most difficult. Wait for the ring to be at its smallest, then swipe to fling the Pokéball toward the Pokémon.

It may take a few tries, but once it has been successfully captured your new Pokémon will be added to your Pokédex. The combat point (CP) number above your new Pokémon indicates how strong it is, and candies and stardust can be used to make the Pokémon stronger.

Pokéstops are your best friends in the game, as they drop free

 items such as Pokéballs and eggs with each visit. They refresh after about five minutes, so you won’t need to wait long in order to gain free items. Pokéstops can be found at public places such as parks, shops and statues.

Eggs are another way of gaining Pokémon, but can only be unlocked after walking a certain distance. A 2 km egg often hatches a low-level Pokémon, and 10 km egg indicates a more rare or powerful Pokémon. No cheating by getting in your car, now: Pokémon Go tracks your speed and knows that you can’t run at 60 km/h.

Gyms in Pokémon Go are a little different to those in our world. Once players reach level five they can visit local gyms, battle other Pokémon and choose one of three teams: Team Instinct (yellow), Team Valor (red), and Team Mystic (blue). Players can join gyms run by members of their team or battle to claim ownership of opposing teams’ gyms. Gyms are usually found at shopping centres, schools or churches, as one individual found out when his refurbished church home was accidentally marked as a gym. Luckily he was a good sport about the whole situation, making friends with the players and even the owner of his “gym”.

Criticism of the game includes frequent server crashes due to its unforeseen popularity and the missing option of trading Pokémon with players, this having been teased in the promotional trailer. Niantic executives have said that this feature will be added to the game in future upgrades.

Pokémon Go has taken a beloved fandom and used it as a tool to take gaming in a new direction. Both fans and newcomers alike can enjoy this popular game, as socialising has become a by-product of playing. The aspect of having to go out and explore a game immersed in reality – and even possibly meeting your new crush in the process – makes Pokémon Go a standout game for our time.


Photo: Fezekile Msimang

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