By Jamie Sefton •

Pokémon Go: A Beginner’s Guide

The Pokémon Go mobile game is taking the world by storm. Combining cutting edge technology with unbridled nostalgia, the app has swiftly added 7.5 billion dollars to Nintendo’s net worth since launch. But you already know this. Its all-pervading presence across social media makes last seasons’ ‘Game of Thrones’ coverage seem piddling.

Released across Europe this week and officially launched in the UK today, the game has seen unprecedented growth. Available for iOS and Android, its use of augmented reality allows players to tap into their smartphones GPS and camera functions to capture, battle and train the famous Japanese creatures and interact with the world around them. The app is already set to be one of the most popular mobile games in history, on course for topping Snapchat in terms of daily active users. In other words – it’s popular.

Pokemon Go

The Pokémon Go mobile game is taking the world by storm. Combining cutting edge technology with unbridled nostalgia, the app has swiftly added 7.5 billion dollars to Nintendo’s net worth since launch. But you already know this. Its all-pervading presence across social media makes last seasons’ ‘Game of Thrones’ coverage seem piddling.

Released across Europe this week and officially launched in the UK today, the game has seen unprecedented growth. Available for iOS and Android, its use of augmented reality allows players to tap into their smartphones GPS and camera functions to capture, battle and train the famous Japanese creatures and interact with the world around them. The app is already set to be one of the most popular mobile games in history, on course for topping Snapchat in terms of daily active users. In other words – it’s popular.

Pokemon Go

The Good, The Bad and The Weird

First launched across Australia, US, New Zealand and Japan, the original version of the app contained a rather serious security flaw. When iOS users signed up via their Google accounts, the game automatically gained full access to all their Google data. The good news is, in time for today’s UK launch, all of this has been completely resolved. (If you want to learn more about the initial security issues, you can do so here.)

It’s still worth remembering that – when in full use – Pokémon Go continues to track and share your location. And due to the outdoor nature of the game, users are potentially at risk of getting themselves into some rather dubious situations. One US player was stabbed in the shoulder whilst looking for opponents to battle (and then refused treatment so he could carry on playing.) Elsewhere in America, armed robbers used the game to lure players into a trap.

Determined players have also been hunting Pokémon in some rather inappropriate locations, including the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Across the globe, the sight of people running around on their phones in public has drawn comparisons to an episode of Black Mirror. One tongue-in-cheek idea suggests Pokémon Go is part of a government plot, and some people have found the game so addictive they’ve resorted to selling their account.

On the flip side, many players have found the app to be fantastic motivator. Not only is it providing gamers with the perfect excuse for regular exercise, many users are claiming it’s helping them battle their mental health problems. The motivating nature, friendly competition and physical exertion is reportedly giving people a revitalised sense of personal well being.

Getting started with Pokémon Go

With such widespread attention, many people new to mobile gaming and/or the Pokémon universe are jumping on board. So for all you noobs out there, here’s my quick guide to getting started.

Choosing your first Pokémon

When you launch the game for the first time you’re presented with thee Pokémon to select from – it’s the usual suspects, like Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander. You’re only allowed one, so choose wisely. (Having said that, there’s actually an easter egg within the game that allows you to start with Pikachu. When you’re first given the choice, simply walk away and don’t pick any. They’ll pop up again at another location, but you need to walk away again. Do this again – by the fourth time you should be presented with four Pokémon, including Pikachu.)

Pokemon Go

Exploring the world

It’s not the kind of game you play from your sofa – to get the most out of it, you have to physically walk to different locations. Across the Pokémon Go world you’ll find various things to engage with to gain items, battle against other people or find wild Pokémon and become the very best. With the current popularity of the game you’ll probably see other people at Poké Stops and gyms too.

Poké Stops

These are locations you can visit to get free items, including Poké Balls, potions (to heal your Pokémon), luring items (to attract wild Pokémon) and eggs (for growing and hatching new Pokémon of your own). Poké Stops are generally located at different landmarks or public spaces throughout a city – there’s actually one right near the Parallax office in Leeds so it’s perfect for us to top up our bags at lunchtime.

Pokémon Gyms

We all dreamed of being gym leaders back in the 90s – now that dream is a reality. Gyms are found throughout the Pokémon world; they’re where you go for battles. To do this, you need achieve Level 5, which can be done by simply exploring the world and catching Pokémon. Once you’ve reached Level 5 and headed to your first gym, you’ll be asked to pick a team from Instinct, Mystic and Valor. Here’s some further information about what what team you should pick and a breakdown of all the different benefits.

To take part in a battle, select the gym and then select which of your Pokémon you want to use. You’ll need to fight all the current people at that gym. If you lose, all your Pokémon will need to be healed and you’ll have to try again. If you win, you become the new gym leader for that gym. However, if the gym is owned by your own team, you’ll be placed based on the Pokémon you leave behind.

If a gym is controlled by someone on your team, you can battle them and join the gym. If it’s controlled by a different team, you need to beat all the members to take control. If you join a gym (or take control) you must leave one of your Pokémon behind to defend it. Choose wisely – whichever one you leave behind can’t be used it for other battles or power ups. If you’re defeated, your Pokémon will return to you in a damaged state and you’ll need to use potions to heal it. For us at Parallax, there’s a nearby gym at Leeds Minster.

Catching Wild Pokémon

The best way to catch Pokémon is to wander around and look for them in the wild. When they pop up on your screen, try and catch them by tapping. Using fruit items to feed higher level Pokémon will make them easier to catch. The augmented reality features allows you to view Pokémon as if they are right in front of you. There’s an option to turn this off and view them within the virtual world, which often make them easier to catch.

Use the option to the bottom right of the screen to display all the Pokémon close to your current location. Each will have small footprints below them, ranging from none to three prints. This indicates how close you are. Walk around until the footprints reduce – it’s a great way to track rare Pokémon.

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

Evolving and Hatching Pokémon

Every time you catch a Pokémon they come with a candy specific to them. Candy can be used to upgrade your Pokémon’s power, as well as evolving them. Different Pokémon require different amounts of candy to get them to the next evolution stage. Rattata, for example, evolves to Raticate with enough candy.

You’ll probably see loads of lower level Pokémon (e.g. Pidgey) around, but it’s still worth catching them. Catching a Pokémon you already have gives you around 3 candy points. If you have more than one of the same, head to transfer at the bottom of the info screen and send it back to the Professor – that gives you an extra candy point.

Poké Stops sometimes give you an egg – they’re easy to overlook. Go to your Pokémon list and click the eggs tab to see if you have any. Select an egg and start the incubation process. You have to then physically walk a certain distance in order for that Pokémon to hatch, but it’s usually worth it.

Pokemon Go

Final thoughts

As you can probably tell, I’m already massively addicted. I love that Pokémon Go gets me out and about – I’ve walked over 23km already in an attempt to catch ’em all. The return of this beloved franchise has reignited the love we all had for Pokémon as children. I know loads of people who used to play the Game Boy versions and I’ve even started watching the animated series again on Netflix.

Whatever your thoughts are, there’s no denying this new game is proving itself to be a monster hit. With reports of people falling over and grazing themselves, my advice is to keep your wits about you at all times – no matter how absorbing it is. So stay safe kids, and try not to go anywhere you shouldn’t. Unless you spot a Pikachu, that is.