Last week, Pokémon Go was released in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The game is a huge hit. Reports are that users are spending more time on the app than are the users of super popular apps like Snapchat and Instagram. What is it about the game that is quickly turning people into Pokémaniacs? After all, there have been Pokémon games before. And the characters have been around since 1995. What's going on? Let's begin with a Pokémon primer for those of you who aren't already super trainers...(and if you do know Pokémon really well already, I'll see you in the next paragraph, okay?)
Catch 'em all!
The world of Pokémon is full of all kinds of adorable, mysterious, powerful, and sometimes just weird creatures. The one thing that they all have in common though is this: they need to be caught. In Pokémon stories, human characters were "Pokémon Trainers". It was their job to catch and train these creatures. With the right care, the trainers could even evolve a Pokémon to a higher, more powerful level. The trainers also used the Pokémon that they collected to do battle with evil villains. The more Pokémon that a trainer collected, the more powerful his or her little Poké-army was. That's why their slogan was "Catch 'em all!"
Living the dream
With that out of the way, we're back to the previous question: Why is Pokémon Go so popular so quickly? In the past, there have been plenty of Pokémon video games. There have also been millions upon millions of trading cards sold. Both the video games and the cards allow players to become trainers, and even do battle with each other with the Pokémon that they have collected. But what Pokémon Go does differently is this: it lets you do these things in real world.
A brand new gaming world
Pokémon Go is two things. First, it's a geocaching game. Geocaching (say gee-oh-KASH-ing) is a type of game where items are hidden in specific places outdoors. Players then need to use a global positioning system (GPS, which uses satellites to tell you exactly where you are on Earth) to locate these hidden items. It's like super hide-and-seek or treasure hunting, and is played around the world. Players of Pokémon Go use their phones as their GPS. But it's not as though real Pokémon are hidden around the world.
That brings us to the second point. Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game. That means that though players move through the real world to play the game, they can only see the Pokémon that they want to catch by looking through the screen on their phone or tablet. So while Bulbasaur may not really be crawling through that patch of grass in your local park, it looks like he is when you view that patch of grass through your phone. For big fans of the game, you'll be stoked to know that the game even changes the type of Pokémon that you'll find based on where you play (go by the water, and you'll find more water-based creatures, for example). All in all, it's starting to become clear why so many people are so excited about this.
Have fun but stay safe
For those of us in Canada, Pokémon Go hasn't been officially released yet (though that hasn't stopped some Canadians from figuring out how to play... sorry, we can't help you there). But it will be released soon. And when it is, it will put a new twist on getting outside for some fresh air. Finally, you and your parents can agree on something!
That said, it is important to stay safe while you're playing. Remember that just because you're playing a video game, all of the same hazards of the real world—such as traffic—still exist. Also, you should always play with a group of friends you trust or with your parents. Stick to your crew and places that you know.
Finally, a little dollars and cents sense. In-app purchases are going to be super tempting if you play this game. After all, you can buy lures to attract more Pokémon to you. Awesome, right? Sure... but those lures cost real money. And that's not even getting into the data charges that just playing the game can rack up. It may not be a bad idea to set a budget with your parents for what you can spend on the game and how long you can play. That way, you can keep Pokémon Go-ing until you're the very best, like no one ever was. Pika! Pika!