Pokémon - gotta catch 'em all

The world has gone crazy for Pokémon Go. In case you aren't familiar with Pokémon, here's a brief history of the game.

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

It all started back in 1996, with the release of the first Pokémon games (Pocket Monsters Red and Green) for the Nintendo Gameboy. It has been released in various forms on all Nintendo gaming systems since then, plus there are card games and numerous forms of merchandising.

So what exactly do you do in Pokémon? The concept is simple, there are little monsters living all around the world. You can catch and train them using special Pokéballs that you throw at the Pokémon you are trying to catch. Trainers can then send their Pokémon into battle with other Pokémon and their trainers.

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Each Pokémon has a unique set of strengths, weaknesses and special abilities (yes, you can get fire breathing dragons). Learning the differences between them is key to becoming good at the game.

Pokémon Go brings the franchise bang up to date augmented reality. After installing the game on your mobile phone (Android or iOS), you can find, catch and train Pokémon in the real world. The game uses a system originally built for a game called Ingress (https://www.ingress.com/), which uses the GPS tracking in your phone to map the games’ locations over real world locations. Yes, you have guessed it. Both games involve a lot of walking.

When you find a Pokémon in the real world, your phone’s camera switches on and allows you to see where the Pokémon is. Then it’s a simple swipe on your screen to throw your Pokéball and attempt to catch it.

Pokémon aren’t the only things you can find in the world while playing the game. Pokéstops are places (landmarks) where you can obtain items to help you in your quest to become the best trainer. Mostly you will find Pokéballs and sometimes Pokémon eggs, which you can incubate and hatch. Eggs hatch after walking a predetermined distance while playing the game. I am still waiting to hit 5km. There are also Pokémon Gyms, where you can do battle with other trainers and earn coins to be used in the game.

The game really is fun to play (I got it early by using a work around, so have had a bit of time to get to know it), but you do need a good network signal or have access to WiFi to get the most from it. Sadly for me that means walking a very long way in order to play, as most of the village where I live has next to no network coverage. It is most definitely good for your health (as long as you pay attention when walking near roads, etc.) and is a definitely better than having kids (and grown ups) sitting at home in front of a screen for hours on end. Although you do get a few funny looks from passersby.

Perhaps I will take a walk on the South Downs (good 4G up there) and find myself a trig point or two. I bet there will be a Pokéstops aplenty and maybe even a gym! Who knows, I might even find a rare or legendary Pokémon!