What Is Pokemon Go And Why Is It Such A Big Deal?

If you have been on social media at all in the last week, you probably know that Pokemon Go has been taking over the world. But not everyone knows exactly what Pokemon Go is and why it's become so incredibly popular. So we wanted to put together a little guide for those noobs who want to know more about the Pokemon Go phenomenon.

(Image credit: Techcrunch)

What Is Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go is a mobile game that involves augmented reality to deliver a real-life Pokemon experience. This allows people to capture their favorite Pokemon in the real world using the same technology Google Maps uses. The game was developed by Niantic Labs and published by the father of Pokemon, Nintendo.

Wait, Pokemon Go is free?

If you're worried about Pokemon Go costing you any money, then you have no reason to fret because Pokemon Go is actually free-to-play on iOS and Android, It won't cost any money until you break down and run low on Pokeballs and absolutely need to buy more. You can buy Pokecoins that will let you buy things like Pokeballs and special items to help you gain experience and heal your Pokemon after a battle. So we can't promise you won't spend hundreds of dollars getting yourself more Pokeballs.

(Image credit: The Verge)

Why is it such a big deal?

Pokemon Go uses augmented reality, very similar to Google Maps, so that it maps out actual surroundings to put Pokemon in the real world. Then, it's up to you to explore the world to capture Pokemon and evolve them and raise their levels to make them stronger. Another big part of gameplay will be capturing gyms and keeping those under your team's reign as long as possible before it's captured by someone else. What makes this game so completely different from anything else on the mobile app stores is it's actually getting people outside and exercising and socializing with other players. It's been a long time since I've seen a game actually get someone off the couch and out into the world to explore and socialize.

How does it work?

The Pokemon franchise has always been really popular with players both young and old, but when the franchise went mobile and created almost an entirely new experience for players, even people who don't know anything about Pokemon are picking up the game to play. Using augmented reality, players can see virtual Pokemon in real-world locations so it feels like you are inside the Pokemon game. Such screenshots have included seeing a Magikarp on the beach or spotting a Pokemon in someone's house. The point of the game is to "catch all of the Pokemon" almost like a collection, and evolve them and raise their levels so they become stronger. Because some Pokemon are almost impossible to find, it's pretty difficult to "catch 'em all."

Can I play it with other people? Or is this a solo game?

The game has a unique way for people to play together both inside and outside the the virtual world. For example, people get together in large groups and go hunting Pokemon together. But you can also fight other players to take control of gyms. And later on, Niantic Labs is expecting to add in player-to-player Pokemon trading, furthering the community gameplay even more. And if you would rather just stick to yourself and play solo, you can totally do that too. All you have to worry about is collecting Pokemon you want and taking on gyms by yourself, hopefully with powerful enough Pokemon.

Is this game okay for my kid to play?

Pokemon Go is completely safe for kids of all ages, but make sure they keep theirs eyes and ears alert at all times so that they don't walk into objects or into the street. Even some kids have been reported to approach strangers about Pokemon Go. Just make sure they understand the idea of stranger danger despite Pokemon bringing players together, seeing as how someone used a Pokemon Lure to draw people towards a location to rob them. It's important they understand how to be careful.

I got set up and I'm looking at my map, but I don't see anything. What do I do?

If you don't see anything on your map immediately, don't fret. There are a couple things you can do to start tracking Pokemon. First, take a look around your area and if you see tufts of leaves moving around, that's an indication that Pokemon are nearby. But the most accurate way you can try tracking Pokemon is by using the nifty Pokemon tracker at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. If you just started playing Pokemon Go, the Pokemon will be shadowed and gray. Below each Pokemon, you will see a number of footsteps of up to three steps. If the Pokemon has three footsteps, it is in the area near you in any direction. And if you want to track it, you need to start walking in whatever direction. The closer it gets to the top of the list of nearby Pokemon in the tracker, the closer you are getting to the Pokemon. And once the footsteps start disappearing, then you know you're getting closer to where it's located. When all of the footsteps are gone, you are literally right on top of the Pokemon and it should be appearing soon. Most people will check to see what Pokemon are in the area by pulling up the tracker and seeing what's nearby. It's one of the only ways you can track a Pokemon.

(Image credit: iMore)

How do I get it?

You can download the app for free right now in the United States from the Google Play store or Apple app store. Unfortunately, the app is not yet available in Canada, but hopefully should be available soon.