If you haven't heard of or seen anyone playing the newest release in the Pokemon series, you must be living under a rock. The most recent addition to the franchise has sent nerds, geeks, and Pokemon fans young and old to the streets as they seek to "catch them all". As a player of the game, it is everything a 6-year-old-me who sat in front of the TV and watched Ash run around catching Pokemon could have dreamed of.
Now, I'm by no means a Pokemon expert; I got into gaming in late middle school and high school. I never asked for a GameBoy or the games for my DS when they came out. But you could have expected me to be watching the show and movies whenever they were on. With that in mind, here are ten reasons I think GO is the greatest phone game to be released, ever. All the pictures you will see are screenshots from my personal game.
1. The Pokemon
As of the moment, the only Pokemon we can find are those from the Kanto region. We begin the game with one of the three classic starters, Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur. (Or if you know the trick, Pikachu). Then we are sent on our way to adventure about and find the creatures that have danced in our imaginations since childhood. There is a thrill to finding the Onix that has been in your "Nearby" bar or to finally catch another one of the starters. Even if it is a duplicate, each catch is a little thrill. (I actually just now caught a Venonat). This is how the Pokemon you currently have are displayed, but there are may different ways you can sort them, which I will discuss later.
2. Augmented Reality
This has been in the media a lot as of late, with different glasses coming out to interact with the already present VR technology. Pokemon GO has jumped ahead of all of this by using the camera that's built into your smartphone. When a Pokemon appears, it will bring up the capture screen (see below) and the Pokemon will be sitting right in front of you just like it were actually there. Not only does it use this feature, it tracks your location with the GPS built in and generates the map, complete with shaded places for rivers, roads, buildings, and parks. So you are able to navigate through this experience using real world orientations.
This is that Venonat I said I had just caught earlier, chilling on my desk as I'm minding my own business writing this article.
This is the map generated by the app, my avatar is standing in the shaded area that represents the building I'm currently in.
Previous games (as I've seen) have all encouraged players to go out and explore, to meet new people and play the game with them. This was Nintendo's best accomplishment at this. We have to walk to find Pokemon, to arrive at PokeStops (places where we can get free potions, eggs, Pokeballs, and other goodies), and gyms. Some people opt for bikes or cars, but at the end of it people are getting out of their homes. There have been reports of it helping people with depression who are used to being shut-in playing their video games. "But they're still just sitting on their phones!" Yes, we are on our phones, but we interact with others when we see special Pokemon and we actually have to walk to hatch eggs that we get from PokeStops.
4. New Friends
This one works off the previous point. When you go out and hit up hot spots, currently for me downtown Iowa City, where there are a lot of PokeStops, you will find so many people playing GO. Not only that, but they are all more than happy to talk about the game. I will wander around and see someone on the street and call out to them "Hey you playing Pokemon GO?" and they'll smile at me. Some will stop and talk or some will walk away after the smile. But hardly anyone is shy about it.
There is a strong pride in the players. The other night I was downtown playing with my boyfriend and we ended up making three new friends. We explored and hunted Pokemon with them all night. They were with us when we chased down the Onyx. You can ask anyone about what they've caught and where they've caught it, because everyone could catch the Pikachu and if 30 seconds later someone new walked up they would be able to get it as well. It has united an entire generation nearly overnight.
We don't get gym medals anymore, but we do get them for different achievements that we do throughout the game. There's an entire section of the app dedicated to the different medals you can acquire through your adventures.
Even if you don't play, you know what's going on. This game is open to new Pokemon learners, the ones that grew up playing the card game, or those that watched the show but never had the gaming systems to play the games. It's a community wide celebration of Pokemon.
7. Gym Battles
While at the current moment we are unable to battle against our friends, when we reach level 5 we have the ability to join one of three teams: Yellow (Instinct), Red (Valor), or Blue (Mystic). These colors represent the three legendary birds, Zapdos, Moltres, and Articuno. All these colors really stand for is how you are able to "take" gyms. In Pokemon GO, gyms aren't controlled by NPCs, they're controlled by other real world players. Only one team can occupy a gym at once, but many different players can have Pokemon in the gym depending on the gym's level.
I joined team Valor, so if I found a Red gym, I would be able to train my Pokemon there and be able to bump up the gym prestige (level). If I ran into a Blue or Yellow gym, I would be able to attack it and possibly claim it for myself. It's smart to attack in teams, and most of the time groups of friends will all join the same team in order to form a smaller sub-team to travel around and claim gyms with. Below is a gym currently run by team Valor. The Pokemon on top is Hypno, which is currently the strongest Pokemon in the gym and by proxy, the trainer that owns that hypno is the gym leader.
As I've said several times before, I never played the games myself. But I did watch the show almost religiously. Indigo League will always live on in my heart as my favorite, so seeing all these Kanto region Pokemon that I watched Ash catch throughout his journeys in the first season have made my heart swell. Before I always claimed my inner child, but now as I'm able to wander around downtown Iowa City and catch different Pokemon I've known all my life (albeit I've forgotten a lot of names), it's something completely different. I don't even care if the ones I haven't caught aren't "cool", I want them all, because Ash always wanted to catch them all, and that's what I want too.
Okay, I know it's silly to make one Pokemon a whole point, but Pikachu is the most sought after Pokemon of all. He was a jerk in the show but he was super powerful and cute. He's always been a big deal to fans, and now we have the chance to find him ourselves. When I finally caught mine, I was so excited. In my opinion getting a Pikachu is more awesome than getting a legendary or anything of the like.
10. The Future
The app as a lot of anticipated updates, among them are the updates that will bring us batting our friends and even trading Pokémon. The game has its flaws, but it's working towards great things. You never know when you'll find certain Pokémon. You could find a Ninetails walking late at night with your dad, or a Snorlax while eating Chinese for lunch.
The game is a blast, for Pokémon life fans and for those just learning about them.