Getting Out More With Pokémon Go
The idea behind Pokémon Go intrigued me, although I never expected it to take off as well as it has. I didn’t initially plan to invest so much time into it, but with everyone else playing it would be a shame to miss out while it’s popular. The aim of Pokémon Go is to walk around collecting Pokémon in the real world. There are also gyms that teams of players can take over. This is an idea that my partner and I have wanted for a long time; Being able to run our own gyms. The game currently only contains Pokémon from the first generation.
Upon starting the game I was able to select from three starters; Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. There is also a fourth hidden one (Pikachu) that you can acquire by walking a short distance and getting the starters to reset position about four times. I decided to go for Pikachu, although due to how the system works the initial Pokémon you catch are too weak to be worth using. As your trainer level increases so does the potential to catch more powerful Pokémon (measured in CP – combat points.) Pokémon can be made stronger by evolving them or powering up their CP using stardust and candy. Candy can be acquired by transferring Pokémon to the professor, and specific ones are needed to upgrade each type. There are few tutorials on how to play, but the system is simplistic and intuitive. I’m not too keen on this method of training Pokémon, although I can understand why it has been done in this way. In the other games the focus was on taking low level Pokémon from the start and making them stronger while developing a friendship with them. In Pokémon Go you’ll be transferring most of the weaker Pokémon to enable you to work on the better ones. This requires you to continue catching the same ones over and over in order to get enough candy to power them up, therefore adding longevity to the game. Even though you can pick a team and start gym battles at level 5 (Valor for me) I didn’t feel like I could start training right away. I was looking forward to trying out the gyms, but I wasn’t sure when the best time to start training was as I didn’t want to waste resources on early Pokémon. Luckily the first few levels are quick to take.
I was concerned that for newcomers it could eventually be impossible to compete at gyms as is usually the case with number based systems. There are some very powerful Pokémon already in use that I would have no chance of taking on. Luckily the game is balanced in such a way that it’s easier to take a gym than it is to defend it. Defeating a gym will weaken it by loweing its prestige. Prestige affects how many slots are available to fill with defending Pokémon. If you attack a gym belonging to your own team you can increase its prestige, and perhaps open up a new slot in which to place one of your own Pokémon. Even Pokémon with low CP have a place in this system as it could make it easier to power up a gym of your own. Nothing stands still for too long and gyms frequently change teams. One frustration that we have encountered is that upon defeating a gym it changes to unowned rather then allowing you to put a defender in right away. This creates an opening for another player to get a Pokémon in before you get the chance to even though you were the one that put in all the work (although this is fair considering that a gym can be taken on by more than one player at a time.) I’ve also found that it’s far easier to take gyms on in a group and so I recommend joining the same team as your friends (which I didn’t because I was feeling rebellious that day.) The combat system itself is very simplistic and involves tapping to attack and swiping to dodge.
My first outing with Pokémon Go was actually spent at the pub. We were able to plug our phones in there (it’s bad for draining battery) and there was a pokestop nearby with a lure. Pokestops are points at which you can collect items. Along with hatching eggs they ensure that you have to keep moving to play. Lure modules can be used on Pokestops to attract Pokemon to that location for 30 minutes; All players benefit. You can tell when a lure module has been used as petals appear around the pokestop. We planned to go for walk afterwards, but then the servers became busy and we were kicked out. We had a lot of trouble in the first week and the game can be glitchy at times. It has improved and we’ve had a few successful walks since. Even though I’ve walked around the same areas for a long time now, I like that the pokestops have revealed new sights of interest to me that I’ve always overlooked. It led us into trying out a new restaurant for instance – I can see some places benefitting by being designated a gym or pokestop. It’s not as seamless as I would have liked however; You can tell who the Pokémon Go players are by how they walk around holding their phones out. Despite the warning on the loading screen to stay alert at all times I have found the app to be engrossing enough to make that difficult. When lots of pokestops are clustered together you’ll find that it’s easier to keep your phone out the entire time. While I think the benefits do outweigh the negatives (we’re getting more exercise and meeting new people) I can understand the reason for the concern as to how safe it is to use. I’d never previously used my phone much while walking through town for fear that it could be easily stolen or would distract me from noticing the dangers around me. I recommend being sensible as no Pokémon is worth taking risks for. You don’t have to be next to a Pokémon to catch one and it shouldn’t require you to go out of your way too often. There’s also more to find in town, so bad luck if you live somewhere quieter. I wish it encouraged people to visit the country more too, just as the other games have you walking through forests and long grass.
I find Pokémon Go to be a little light on features and once summer has passed I predict the craze might start to die down. At the moment my friends and I are having a lot of fun with it, and there are much worse obsessions we could have. I’m glad that we’re doing something to get us out and about while the weather is nice. Pokémon Go has also revealed the potential for ARGs (augemented reality games) and I look forward to seeing the future of this genre.