Niantic, Inc., 2016.
Available for Free on iOS and Android platforms
Summary: Catch Pokémon in the real world and train to become the greatest Pokémon trainer of them all!
This game is a big deal for a number of reasons, only a few of which I will highlight here. Originally developed for personal gaming systems (think Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Nintendo DS), the augmented reality game developed a cult following in the 90s that also included a television series and a trading card game – the latter of which is still popular. New Pokémon games have popped up over the years, but with the exception of expanding the number and variety of monsters (the original 151 has grown to a ridiculously large 721), it’s my understanding that the nature and the goal of the game hasn’t changed. With the release of Pokémon Go, the game is now much more interactive and has a greater opportunity for socializing. For people in my generation that grew up with the original games (think Red, Blue, Yellow), there’s a definite nostalgia factor and the marketing isn’t afraid to play this up. It’s an opportunity for the older generations to connect with the younger generation; it’s an opportunity for groups of people to get out, walk around, and (to a certain extent) explore their communities. It’s giving kids and adults that have trouble interacting in social situations a way to intermingle with their peers: I have a college friend with a daughter that has high-functioning autism and Pokémon Go has given the daughter more confidence and more focus. It sounds super hokey, I admit, but this game really does have the opportunity to transform individuals.
In terms of game play itself, the functionality is relatively simple. You start out by picking a character, dressing it, and then choosing a starter Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. Using your phone’s GPS and camera, the user can basically walk around while looking at a map of their area in order to find and catch Pokémon (by flicking a Pokéball at the monster, which you can re-name after you add it to your Pokédex), train at a gym (starting at Level 5), or find a Pokéstop where they can collect more Pokéballs for catching monsters or even eggs (by spinning a coin-like logo that appears in the middle of the screen). Eggs can be hatched by fulfilling a certain walking distance requirement while placed in your incubator. Pokémon can also be traded in to the Professor for candy that allows you to level up and evolve your Pokémon. Other equipment upgrades, coins, lures, and incense can be purchased in the in-game store. At Level 5, the user will pick one of three teams – Team Mystic, Team Valor, or Team Instinct. Battling is a little bit different than in the video game: instead of a turn-based system, the user repeatedly taps the screen in order to attack their opponent. A major downside to the game is that it drains your battery and can potentially use up quite a bit of your data – but those are really the least of your concerns. Making sure to stay safe and alert while playing are super important, especially considering how easy it is to stare at your phone while walking around. Overall, there are some aspects of the functionality that can be frustrating and the game is still a little bit buggy (no pun intended), but it’s fun and it gets people up and active. So, get out there and catch them all!