Pokemon Go Madness

By the time you are reading this, Pokemon Go has already become a household name all over the world. The game developed by Niantic has broken probably all the records in mobile gaming and there are still several big countries where it is not available yet. But what is this mysterious Pokemon anyway you might ask?

How and when did Pokemon start?

The whole concept of Pokemon is more than 20 years old. The franchise was created in Japan by a man called Satoshi Tajiri. At the time Pokemon was created as a video game for the original Game Boy by Nintendo.

The younger crowd probably have no idea what is a Game Boy, but it was (still is) a handheld gaming device before the time of smartphones and touchscreen devices. Game Boy was released in 1989 and you could say it was a successor to the popular Game & Watch devices (also from Nintendo) released a decade earlier. The big difference with Game Boy was that you could buy games as cartridges instead of buying a completely new device.

There is only one video game series that is better known than Pokemon and that is Nintendo's Mario franchise. Everyone knows the Italian plumber duo, but Pokemon is right behind with a bewildering array of franchise items. As of May 2016, the Pokemon franchise has gross revenue of over 46 billion USD. To put that into perspective, the revenue for the whole country of Singapore in 2013 was 43 billion USD. In other words, if Pokemon franchise was a country, it would be somewhere in the top 50 out of 200 or so countries in the world.

What is Pokemon?

A lot of people do not actually know the original thought that sparked Pokemon alive. The term Pokemon comes from the Japanese word "Poketto Monsuta" which translates as pocket monsters. The idea of "pocket monsters" is related to collecting insects which the original creator Mr Tajiri enjoyed when he was a child in Japan.

Playing Pokemon is actually about the same as collecting all these weird and funny looking insects in the wild and this concept is still at the core of the newly released mobile game called Pokemon Go. When you play Pokemon Go on your mobile, you need to go out there, physically move in order to catch the virtual "insects" known as Pokemon.

How many Pokemon are there?

It is not that easy to answer the question of how many Pokemon are out there. It depends. In the mobile game Pokemon Go, there are 151 unique characters. Catching them all might be a little more difficult task than just walking around your neighborhood. It turns out at least four special Pokemon are only available in specific continents.

  • Farfetch'd in Asia
  • Kangashan in Australia
  • Tauros in North America
  • Mr. Mime in Europe.

However, there are more than 720 known characters in the whole of Pokemon universe which includes cartoons. movies, video games, card trading games, musicals, theme parks and more. It looks like that there is plenty of room to grow within the franchise, if it looks like a lot of people have completed their Pokedex.

What is Pokedex?

Pokedex is like a catalogue of all available Pokemon. You will find this in Pokemon Go by tapping the Pokeball at the bottom of the screen and choosing Pokedex at the top. It will show how many Pokemon have you seen, how many you have caught and includes an image of each captured Pokemon.

The remaining unseen Pokemon is represented only by a number. You will also see the number of Pokemon available just by scrolling to the bottom of the list. By tapping a Pokemon in the Pokedex, you can see all the specific details of that particular character. Every Pokemon has a unique name, weight, height, type and description. Many will have an evolution timeline which shows if you can "evolve" the currently chosen Pokemon into something more powerful. In Pokemon Go, you need to collect "candy" specific to that character in order to evolve.

How to play Pokemon?

Pokemon Go is not the typical mobile game with a story or some kind of pre-defined outline to follow. In addition to that, the help feature within the game just gives you very basic information mainly covering the icons shown on screen. As mentioned earlier in the article, the idea of Pokemon is to find and catch those Pokemon characters that appear in your surroundings. When you start the game, you have to create your personal avatar/character, give it a name choose your starting Pokemon. Your game is linked to a Google account, so if you do not have one, you need to create one for it. After the initial settings are done, you are presented a world map which corresponds rather accurately to the Google Maps you might have used before. You will see the main buildings, roads and pathways on the map as well as things called Pokestops and Pokegyms. You need to physically walk over to the location shown in the map to be close enough to interact with either one.

Pokestops are typically some landmarks or known features such as statues, train stations and so on. What you will need to do is tap on the Pokestop symbol on the map and flip the picture shown on your screen. You will be rewarded typically with some Pokeballs and occasionally some bonus items that you can use later on. Once you have "flipped" the Pokestop it requires some time to recharge so the best thing to do is walk over to another Pokestop nearby.

Catching Pokemons happens usually near popular Pokestops and you will see them popping up on your screen. Tap on the Pokemon and the screen changes into "catching mode". You need to swipe up to throw a Pokeball in such a way that it hits the Pokemon right in the middle. You will see a circle going from big to small and the best chance to catch the Pokemon is when the circle is smallest. Sometime you will hit the Pokemon correctly, but they will be able to break free. Usually you will get another chance at throwing a ball at them, but other times they will run away completely.

Just like in the original Pokemon Universe, the Pokemon have a range of "rarity" status which means that some Pokemon are very common while others are almost impossible to find. As of now, the Pokemon Go game does not have a way to search Pokemon locations nor will be able to track down where you caught any particular Pokemon. However, there are several 3rd party apps which provide some of these functionalities.

How to get Pikachu as a starter?

If you have not played Pokemon Go yet, here is a secret trick how to get Pikachu as your starter monster. When you first start the game, you are given a choice between Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. Walk away from these monsters until they disappear. You need to do this four times and if you are lucky, you will have the option to choose Pikachu.

What is a Pokegym?

The Pokegyms are another important feature of the game. Gyms are typically located in well known locations just the same as Pokestops. After your avatar is on level 5, you will need to choose an alliance between one of the three teams. A gym can be captured and fortified by placing any of your Pokemon at the location. If you are playing for example for the red team Valor, after capturing the gym would belong to the red team. Other Pokemon trainers from other teams can try to challenge your gym by walking over to it and engaging in a battle against the Pokemon left to defend the place. If they are successful, the ownership of the gym is transferred to the other team.

Gym battle is fairly straightforward. You will choose your most powerful Pokemons for the attack and there are options for attack and dodge. Dodging happens by swiping to either side at the right time and attacking happens by tapping your own Pokemon. On top of the standard attack, you can do a special attack by holding down your finger on the screen and releasing once the meter is full. The battles are realtime so this might be a bit different if you are used to the turn-based events from older Pokemon games.

If you visit a gym that already belongs to your team, you can do two things. Either placing your Pokemon to defend the gym from attackers, or having a training match against the Pokemon guarding the gym currently. If you and your team can hold a gym for more than a day, you will receive bonus items such as Pokecoins and Stardust which are used to power up your other Pokemon. The gym battles are an interesting addition to the core Pokemon game, but they are totally optional and you can complete your Pokedex even without any battles.

Pokemon in the real world

Since Pokemon must be played mostly outdoors, this creates some unique situations and even hazards that you need be mindful about. First of all, watch your surroundings. The game makes a note about this every single time you start Pokemon, but it is very easy to forget the real world around you when you are chasing a rare Pokemon. A good rule of thumb is to walk and not run, the Pokemon are not going to disappear so fast and there are more than enough for everyone.

Watch out for cars and other vehicles if you are playing in busy urban areas. Do not play the game while driving in any kind of vehicle. Make sure you are not trespassing private property when hunting for Pokemon or going for a nearby Pokestop. Sometimes the Pokestops and Pokegyms are wrongly placed, so use common sense to figure out if it is safe (roads, railroads, water etc. and legal (private property, restricted areas etc.) to proceed.

Pokemon Go will make use of your data connection and GPS so if you are on a limited data plan, make sure you are not getting a nasty surprise at the end of the month in the form of an invoice. Playing the game does not consume your data very quickly, but you need to keep the connection alive at all times and when playing for hours, this will add up eventually.

In addition to data, the Pokemon Go requires your mobile to be charged up. Most likely you will be walking around with the screen and GPS turned on, and those things will drain your battery. It might be a good idea to invest in a battery bank or at least make sure your battery is fully charged before you start hunting the Pokemon.

More Pokemon Craziness

The mix of real and virtual environments is the key ingredient in the success of the game. The player has to physically put on sneakers and go walking around the town, because the Pokemon are not going to come to you automatically. This in turn have created some rather imaginative small businesses, everything ranking from renting electric scooters to go around fast and offering charging stations for Pokemon players. We have even seen the popular Youtube celebrity PewDiePie taping his mobile into a drone so that he could catch the Pokemon from the comfort of his home.

If the Pokemon Go is already available in your country, you can follow this link to download the game on your mobile.


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