It’s here! The mobile game that everyone is talking about! Whether you love it or hate it, Pokemon GO has made the world go absolutely nuts. As I write this, my phone is sat in front of me while I wait for another Pokemon to wander nearby or pop up for me to catch and I dare say I will pause many times to do this.
So you are one of the few people who hasn’t heard of this game? Well, let me (WAIT A JYNX APPEARED! Damn the app froze. Didn’t bloody catch it!) tell you a little about it. Pokemon GO calls upon you to join up and catch Pokemon using your phone. You kit out your trainer, the Professor gives you some Pokeballs and away you go. You’ll be offered 3 starters within a few moments (but if you wait you might get a Pikachu) so choose the one you want to catch first and you’ll get your introduction to your Pokedex. After this, you’re off on your Pokemon hunt and the rest is up to you. If you turn the camera on you can take a picture of your Pokemon before you catch it in a weird scenario or place and put it online for your friends to see.
Now, as I mentioned in my short stop to try and catch a Jynx, the app is not perfect (A Drowzee, gotcha!) and has a tendency to freeze when you least want it to, especially when it’s a Pokemon you haven’t had before and costs you the catch. On some occasions, waiting for the loading/saving icon to finish spinning then closing the app will work and you’ll still have your prize when you load back in, but there’s been a couple of times when it hasn’t…. Like a few minutes ago. But although infuriating, it still is a little addictive. It can also be a bit glitchy with Pokemon disappearing, the map staying in one place or saying you’re too far away from the Pokestop you’re standing on top of but you manage and still carry on playing. I foresee a huge rise in the sales of portable battery packs in the next few weeks and an increase in phone companies getting requests for more data in their contracts.
But the game isn’t just about catching all of the Pokemon first. You level up and gather eggs which you can pop in an incubator and you have to walk a certain distance for it actually hatch, my first was a Sandshrew which required 5km. You get lures and incense to attract Pokemon to your location or the Pokestop nearby giving you more opportunities for a flurry of new additions. You can train your Pokemon, Evolve them and battle other players to take control of gyms. Pokestops are usually located at popular spots or places of note within your local area such as war memorials, pubs, landmarks while gyms are places where a lot of people gather…. like McDonalds or a train station. (Oh, another Rattata, come here!) You can submit requests for places to be Pokestops but you need to think carefully about where they will be placed as schools and the like are definitely not appropriate. When you find a Pokestop, you hit it and spin the circle on the screen and are rewarded with Pokeballs, eggs, potions and more in a similar way to when you level up. You also gain XP for ‘checking in’ so in an area littered with them, you’ll find your level creeping up. You can evolve your Pokemon but getting candies which you gain by catching and transferring. I’ve just learned about this and now have some new additions to my Pokedex!
But I think most importantly, this game encourages you to go outside. I have seen massive groups of people in our local Castle Park in Colchester talking about what’s nearby, what they just caught and supporting one another when battling a gym. It’s incredible. While yes, there are some further issues with people still constantly looking down at their phones, trespassing on private property and walking into the road, the majority of people are enjoying themselves. People are arranging meet ups and pub crawls too! We were due to have one which turned into a general chat while the server was down on the biggest day of the app yet. Apparently it was a hacker group taking credit for a DDOS attack… but I’m still convinced it was more to do with 3 major European countries having it released and everyone downloading it at the same time. But even during the couple of hours the game was unavailable, we talked about the effect it was having while discussing our best catches so far. Once the server was back, we immediate dropped a lure and waited for the Pokemon to come to us before heading into the park to join the other folks playing on a sunny weekend. Other server issues have been caused by the sheer popularity of the game, it has exceeded even Nintendo/Niantec’s expectations in popularity; they even tweeted out yesterday saying the servers were struggling to handle over 47 Million players trying to access the servers. Hopefully these server issues get sorted in the near future so the game can be a little more reliable.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the best game in the World. Sorry folks. Even as someone who only has Pokemon Blue and still has a Level 9 Bulbasaur, I think I would prefer to be playing the original games. It will be vastly improved in more servers are put in place but people are calling for PvP battles along with the gym aspect. Realistically, Niantec are not going to do that because then there would be little need for people to buy the games that already exist or are coming out. So don’t hold your breath for that one. On the plus side, Nintendo will probably see an increase in sale as people who weren’t playing before will probably take the time to get a little more invested, or at least that’s what I like to think. Pokemon GO might not be the best “game” on the app store gameplay wise, as it is 85% just a collection type game, but I would go as far as saying it is both one of the best social networking apps AND fitness apps. Pokemon GO has got many, many, people out of their darkened gaming rooms and out into the big wide world, interacting with people from all walks of life. One friend’s dad said that their local Vicar and his wife were out in the countryside trying to catch Pokemon!
The World has been a pretty scary and horrendous place of late and there has been a lot of tension which seems to have dissipated over the last week because people are out enjoying themselves. With the news full of depressing, scare-mongering goings on around the globe, we all needed a little something to distract us and it has been great. People are concerned about child safety and the likely rise in thefts as people are targeted for their phones, but these things happen with or without the game, and the Pokemon GO community is actively trying to make sure that we look after the younger and more vulnerable players out there – calling for everyone to “be a little more like ‘Officer Jenny'”. It appeals to people of all ages and whether you’re in it to take over all of the gyms and be the ultimate Pokemon trainer or just want to complete your Pokedex, it’s enjoyable and encourages you to go out and about. So enjoy it while you can ladies and gentlemen!