When we visited Florida earlier this summer, Pokémon GO was not out yet but John had a beta copy so he and the kids began Pokémon hunting. The idea seemed fun but honestly I never even looked at it. After it launched, John started playing regularly, casually searching for Pokémon with the kids wherever we went. Here they are on our whale watching trip catching Pokémon in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands.
By the way, if you’re ever on San Juan Island, there’s a Pokéstop at the Port of Friday Harbor Children’s Mural.
I admit at this point, I hadn’t even downloaded it. It was at least a week on the market, and as the explosion of popularity hit and my family became more into it, I decided to download it to my iPhone and very quickly I became hooked.
What is the allure of Pokémon GO?
Collecting has always been a huge draw for my gamer husband and kids, but when I think about it, collecting is something I also enjoy doing. My Dad collects coins and he inspired me to have a coin collection as well. I like the hunt of the rare coin, and finding one that I don’t already have makes my day. Coins are small and pretty easy to store too. I’m not personally one for collecting large objects like dolls but I do know a lot of people of all ages who find joy in collecting items of all shapes and sizes from baseball cards to action figures and more.
Pokémon GO by Niantic for me touches on those same feelings. The hunt, the chase, the find! Building a collection and sharing your pride with friends and family. It’s exactly how Pokémon (the card game) began, a way to collect the best cards, build a Pokémon collection, trade them with friends and then if you’re into the game, battle your best characters. Pokémon GO is essentially Pokémon the card game in electronic form. The one exception I see is at this point there’s not way to trade, but I wouldn’t doubt if that comes in a later update.
So if you are NOT a gamer but you enjoy collecting, I think Pokémon GO might be for you too.
How to Play: Pokémon GO Basics
Pokémon GO Interface
By clicking the Poké Ball on the main screen you will see this. “Pokédex” is the library of all Pokémon that can be captured: 136. “Pokémon” lists the characters who you have caught. “Shop” is where you can purchase items for use in-game. And “Items” are the things that you have for your use in your game.
Creating and Customizing Your Character
Great news! You can now after an update just this weekend customize and change your character after the initial set up. This was a great move because for many, we did not pick our team colors the first time we selected, and now we can easily change the character’s clothing, backpack, shoes, etc. But be careful! Do no press the little person at the bottom after you’ve customized. It will reset everything and you’ll have to start over.
The are 136 characters in the Pokémon GO Pokédex (your collection library of the Pokémon you have encountered) and one of your missions in this game is to catch ’em all! Now this could be done in 3 ways: by catching them out “in the wild,” by evolving them from lower Pokémon or by hatching them from eggs.
Catching Characters in the Wild
As you travel around in the real world, Pokémon may be lurking around you. Turn on the app wherever you are and a character may appear. You’re not going to encounter hundreds or even tens of Pokemon in one sitting unless you’re near a lured PokéStop. (More on that later.) When a Pokémon appears, your smartphone will either buzz or make a sound alerting you to it’s presence. I have my phone set to vibrate and appreciate the buzz so I don’t have to always be looking at my phone.
When you first start the game, three Pokémon (Squirtle, Charmander and Bulbasaur) will pop into your screen and you may choose one of them.
Double click the one you choose on your screen and it will pop up in front of you. A circle will appear around it and a red, black and white Poke Ball will be in front of it. Touch the Poké Ball and slide it up toward the Pokémon. This will throw the ball at the character.
You have two options for viewing, one is just within the app and the other is to turn on your phone’s camera and you will actually see the character in front of you in the “real world.”
Your goal is to hit the ball within the circle around the character. If you do, the Poké Ball will catch it and it will register in your Pokédex.
An electronic character card (with all of the Pokémon’s stats) will pop up after you’ve caught it.
What is CP? CP stands for “Combat Power” and essentially represents the strength of your character and becomes important if you plan to battle. At this point you can rename your characters if you’d like by clicking the little symbol to the right of the name. I’ve seen some very funny names out there!
Currently, in my Pokédex I have 57 caught! Not too shabby for this non-gamer. And I’m so excited that I was able to find Pikachu at a local park in Seattle. He was super hard to capture but so worth losing 6 Poké Balls. 🙂
Why is there a circle around the Pokémon? The circle around the Pokémon serves a couple purposes.
#1 The color of the circle tells you how happy or angry the Pokémon is (and how difficult it may be to catch.) If you see RED or ORANGE, watch out. You’ll probably need extra help catching this one (more on this below). But if it’s GREEN, your Pokemon is calm and pretty easy to capture. Yellow is somewhere in the middle. If you’re new to playing, don’t worry, most Pokémon are pretty easy to catch so you’ll see a GREEN circle most of the time.
#2 The circle actually moves from big to small, which is your target area for throwing. Your character will be easier to catch the larger the circle.
Choosing Your Team: Level 5
If you keep playing, you will soon reach Level 5. At this point, you will be able to choose a team. The 3 teams are Team Instinct (Yellow), Team Mystic (Blue) and Team Valor (Red). I’ve heard that most people end up choosing Team Mystic, which makes sense because it’s in the middle and honestly I think it’s because the team character is the most androgynous. I actually chose yellow to be on the same team as Ronin. John and Ellie are blue.
Why choose a team? This becomes important when you encounter PokéGyms if you plan to battle other Pokémon. More on that later.
What in the world is a PokéStop? As you travel around looking for Pokémon, you will encounter small blue pins topped with cubes within game. These are important! They’re where you can collect Poké Balls and other goodies.
As you get close to a PokéStop, circles will appear around the top as shown. If you click the blue circles, a larger circle will appear on screen. Spin this circle to gain rewards like Poké Balls, Razz Berries and Potions and more. This is a way to get more Poké Balls that you will need to continue to capture Pokémon. If you run out, this (or purchase) is the only way to get more.
Poké Stops are typically landmarks or popular public locations like restaurants or shops in the real world. Here’s an example of a Poké Stop in Downtown Bellevue, Washington in and out of the game.
Poké Balls & Razz Berries
Poké Balls: When you first begin the game and until Level 12 you only have basic Poké Balls to capture those little guys. But upon turning Level 12 you are rewarded with some special, high-performance Poké Balls called Great Balls. And trust me, once you get to the higher levels you will need them. I’ve also heard that once you hit Level 20 you’ll receive Ultra Balls, which I assume are even better for catching those hard to capture Pokémon.
Razz Berries: Razz Berries are located in your items and can be used to help calm a Pokémon who is harder to catch (You might want to use a Razz Berry with a character who has a yellow, orange or red circle.)
Lures are modules that can be placed on a PokéStop for 30 minutes to attract more Pokémon to that general vicinity. The cool thing about lures is that these affect everyone nearby, so it’s a really nice thing to do, not only for yourself but for others playing the game. In game, you can tell a PokéStop is lured by the pink petals floating around it. This screenshot shows lured and non-lured PokéStops.
How to Place a Lure: A reader on Facebook asked this question the other day, and honestly I had the same trouble figuring out exactly how to place a lure on a PokéStop. So here’s a quick tutorial.
- Step 1: Find a PokéStop near you and get close enough to click it. You’ll see the large round circle with a smaller oval button above it.
- Step 2: Click the small oval button and you will be taken to your “items” where you hopefully have a lure ready for use. (If you do not, you’ll either need to buy one or collect one from a PokeStop.)
- Step 3: You and any other players nearby will enjoy catching more Pokémon than usual for 30 minutes.
- Note: You can only place a lure on a PokéStop that is not lured.
Lures and Local Business. We’ve seen a ton of local businesses placing lures as a form of advertising during business hours. The Red Robin and Rock Pizza places by us do this quite a bit and you will very often see loads of Pokémon GO players dropping by. I think this is pretty awesome and I hope these businesses are reaping the benefits. A couple friends have already contacted us to find out how to place a lure for their own business. I’m sure Niantic is being flooded with requests for new Poké Stops.
Similar to lures, but for yourself. You can place Incense on yourself to draw wild Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. You do not need to be near a Poké Stop to use Incense.
Gyms are places where you can battle other players according to your team. Your goal here is to take over a gym for your team, battling with six of your top Pokémon. How do you know who your top Pokémon are? This is based on its CP or Combat Power as I mentioned above. As you see here, my husband John (Scathis) took over this gym near our home for the Blue Team with his Clefable that is CP 1131.
For me, I have not battled and probably don’t plan to as a non-gamer. Honestly, this is not a draw for me. Battling sounds stressful and I probably think for most non-gamers, battling other Pokémon probably isn’t what drew you to the game. If I’m wrong, let me know! Are you a typical non-gamer who is having fun battling in Pokémon GO?
This is a fun way to fill up your Pokédex with more of the characters that you do not have. As you collect Pokémon, you will collect “Candy.” You need a certain number of candy to evolve each character. When you catch one, you’ll automatically receive 3 Candy. Here is the evolution of Pidgey as an example. As you can see, I currently have 16 Pidgey Candy and need 12 to evolve from Pidgey to Pidgeotto. To evolve from Pidgeotto to Pidgeot you need 50 Pidgey Candy.
As you play, if you discover that you have a ton of one type of Pokémon, like this Pidgey who I can find all over the place, you can transfer it and receive 1 Candy to help build up your supply of Pidgey candy for evolution of a Pidgeotto. To find the transfer button, just scroll up on your screen like I did here for my Pidgey and you’ll see it below.
Another way to get new Pokémon for your Pokédex is to Incubate Eggs. You’ll collect eggs at Pokéstops in different distances: 2 km, 5 km and 10 km. In order to hatch each egg you need incubators (which you can collect or purchase) and you must walk the distance with your game open. I think this is awesome for encouraging gamers to get out and exercise (as long as they are always alert and aware of their surroundings when playing.)
John discovered a hack the last time he played golf. He incubated a lot of eggs in the golf cart. Note: You must be going 15 mph or less for it to count. To find your eggs, on the home screen, click your Poké Ball, then click Pokémon and then swipe left.
With a game developer husband, and me being a tech lover, our kids have grown up with technology. They have iPads but Pokémon GO was created for smart devices with GPS (with cell service). Ronin and Ellie’s iPad’s are WiFi only so the solution for us has been to link them to our phone’s personal hotspots. This solution is not perfect. Service can sometimes be spotty. Also, because they do not have GPS often times they’re character is not located where we actually are, and they might miss Pokemon that we get on our phones. But they also might get ones we don’t see.
We’ve taken walks around our neighborhood together as a family and it’s been a lot of fun. Again, just be careful to pay attention to the roads and surrounding areas. We’ve been very diligent to make sure they watch where they walk and stop walking if they are catching anything. Important Note: I would not recommend letting younger kids play this game by walking the neighborhood on their own. I also let them play in the car on occasion and that is fun for them and less stressful for me. I don’t have to worry about them walking into something by accident.
What are your thoughts? Have you played Pokémon GO?
Check out this DIY Pokémon Pokéball Lunch Kit!