By Charly SHELTON
Those under the age of 35 know what a Pokémon is. There are those over the age of 35 who have good taste and play the games, but they are not expected to know Pokémon. Those under 35 years old were at most 16 when Pokémon was released in America – Sept. 30, 1998 – and played or knew someone who played the original Pokémon. Here’s the core concept – cute little animals, throw a Pokéball and catch them, train them and have battles.
Pokémon touched so many people during the last nearly 20 years, and that is probably why Pokémon Go has taken off with such force.
For those who have been asleep for the last week, waiting for the Poké-Flute to come wake them up, they may not have heard of Pokémon Go. Since launching last Wednesday night, it has become the number one news story, the number one trending topic on Google search, and the top grossing app of all time in both the App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android.
It’s a new take on a classic favorite. Rather than walking around the digital world to catch Pokémon, battle trainers and visit gyms, players walk through the real world to catch Pokémon, hatch eggs and visit gyms. It’s getting people up off the couch and out into the world. This iteration of the game cannot be played on the couch, in air-conditioning, as it bases all of the gameplay on movement of the GPS signal. Pokémon Go is like the previous iterations of the game in that when players see rustling grass on the screen they head towards it because a wild Pokémon is lurking somewhere nearby. And just like in those iterations, players have to run in circles through the rustling grass until the Pokémon spots them. When a Pokémon appears, players can see it on the screen through augmented reality and snap a quick picture with it before flicking a Pokéball at it to capture it.
The other way to get Pokémon is by hatching eggs, each one dependent on how far the player walks – rated at 2 km, 5 km or 10 km each. Pokémon Go brings a new appreciation for how much work Ash Ketchum was made to do in the games, running back and forth all over the Kanto region before players got the bike.
I’ve had the game since seven minutes after it launched and, in that time, I’ve logged almost 20 km walked, reached level nine and caught 31 kinds of Pokémon. My fiancé Sabrina doesn’t care at all about Pokémon but is taking a small victory in that I’m constantly wanting to go on walks in the park, and she humors me by begrudgingly posing with the Pokémon in pictures like trophy hunting.
The gameplay is insanely addictive, especially for those who grew up with Pokémon. I was 9 when Pokémon Blue came out, and it was the first game I ever beat all the way through. I have a special connection to the series and played it all the way into college. And now with this newest iteration, I’m absolutely in love and I’m just as addicted as everybody else.
As I sit here writing this article, I have my phone open just in case a Cubone happens to hover into my circle of influence. The first few days, the servers were constantly down but it’s gotten better with each passing day. Pokémon Go is being rolled out to more countries in the next few weeks, reaching Europe within about two weeks, and I hope it stays strong. I really like the community aspect of this game because those who are playing the game can always see the other people who are in the same area for the same reason. It’s easy to spot them – usually a group of people using their phones to look around, or one player is very excited on the phone, towing a nonplussed significant other who is taking that same small victory as Sabrina.
Once you know how to spot them, it becomes like a secret club you’re in together as you exchange knowing smiles and a quick nod. It’s kind of a novel feeling to stop and chat with another trainer without being immediately challenged to a battle. Players swap secrets and share where they had seen the best Pokémon, how to use items and any of the information left out of the very brief tutorial in the game. I find it interesting that for many years of playing Pokémon, I spent a good majority of my time in games trying to avoid trainers and wild Pokémon and now all I do is seek them out. This game is a lot of fun when used responsibly, and has room to grow on a solid base.
So like any good Pokémon trainer nowadays, it’s my turn to impart some of what I’ve learned so far to help up-and-coming trainers: You’re going to get a million Ratatta’s and there’s nothing you can do about it; choose Team Mystic – just trust me; there is no solid evidence as of yet that Mew or any other legendary Pokémon is actually in the game; and the most useful thing I’ve learned so far – if Eevee knows dig, she will evolve into Flareon, if she knows body slam, she will evolve into Jolteon and if she knows swift, she will evolve into Vaporeon. You’re welcome, and spread the love.
Pokémon Go is available now for iPhone and Android in their respective app stores.