by: Kat Wible
I think it’s fair to say one of the highlights of this past summer was the release of the mobile app Pokémon Go. The app, which became available to both iOS and Android users at the beginning of July, quickly became a craze, especially among 18 to 22 year olds. One could say I more than dabbled in Pokémon as a child. I watched the television show, I bought the trading cards, and played the video games. I think I even had a Pokémon themed birthday party one year…anyway back to this new app. Pokémon Go, while part of my beloved franchise, was entirely different from the game playing I was so used to. For years, I sat inside either in front of my television playing on consoles like the Nintendo 64 or Gamecube, or maybe ventured outside with my Gameboy Advanced (a handheld console). The Pokémon games were usually RPG style, which stands for Role Playing Game. Each game followed almost the exact same format. You’re a kid who just moved to a new town, you meet the professor, you get your starter Pokémon, travel across the map, battle gyms, level up your Pokémon with experience points from battling and become the very best like no one ever was! Pokémon Go breaks that typical format.
In Pokémon Go, there is not one map. Pokémon Go uses Google maps to determine where you are, then uses that information to judge how close you are to certain locations you’ll need to get to in order to get items or battle at gyms. Places like churches or statues are usually gyms. Pokéstops are more common than gyms. Here on campus, the SMC is a gym, while the pond and the fountain outside the library are both Pokéstops. Heading to a Pokéstop and spinning the coin that appears on your screen gets you useful items you’ll need to play the game. You can also get eggs from Pokéstops that can hatch into rare Pokémon you wouldn’t typically find in your area. To hatch an egg, you have to keep the app open and walk a specific amount of kilometers. Some eggs are only 2km, while other more rare Pokémon eggs can take 10km to hatch. A difference between Pokémon Go and the console RPG games is how Pokémon level up. In the games, Pokémon level up by battling other Pokémon and getting experience points or XP in battles. In Pokémon Go, you collect something called ‘stardust’ every time you catch a Pokémon. You are also given ‘candy’ for whichever specific Pokémon you catch. Candies are fed to Pokémon to evolve then, while stardust is used to level them up. This really drives app users to get out and keep catching more Pokémon so they can improve their current ones.
One neat part of Pokémon Go is that you don’t need to be a long time fan of Pokémon to play. The mobile apps rules are fairly simple: walk around until a Pokémon appears on your screen, then click the Pokémon to get a chance to catch it! Pokémon are caught with pokéballs that are thrown at them by swiping up on your phone’s touch screen. A couple of my friends downloaded the app because of the hype even though they themselves had never gotten into Pokémon when they were younger. It was funny to hear the nicknames my one friend would call the Pokémon that appeared on his screen because he didn’t know any of their actual names.
Another cool part about Pokémon Go is that there are teams! Teams compete for ownership of gyms by battling whoever is currently in that gym. There are three teams: Mystic (the blue team), Valor (the red team), and Instinct (the yellow team). The teams are based off of the three legendary birds from the first generation of Pokémon (Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos, in case you were wondering). A lot of my friends who just jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon picked the blue team just because those of us who had the app first were already on that team. Personally, I picked Mystic because Articuno is my favorite legendary bird but that’s just me being a big nerd.
I think overall, Pokémon Go is pretty cool, because it really got people out walking around all the time and talking to each other. I remember walking around by the pond in July when everyone started playing and one of my friends remarked, “this is the most people I’ve ever seen around this part of campus, and it’s all because of this app!”
Although the craze has died down a bit since the summer, it’s still amusing to open the app when you’re walking a distance in hopes that one of your eggs will hatch. Even though I don’t play a ton anymore, I hope the developers keep updating the app and it’ll be cool to see if they decide to add anymore new features like trading or the second generation of Pokémon!