How can a simple game be so entertaining, and more importantly, socially influential? Pokemon Go's use of augmented reality and GPS technology on smart phones provides a game experience that transcends everything we know about video games. Players are no longer confined to the limits of their screen when playing, the whole world serves as a giant stage for all trainers to hunt and capture Pokemon. There are Pokestops to be found, Gyms to be conquered, and of course, 151 Pokemon to find and catch. But in between all that is a lot of walking, exploring, and real-life interacting that has become an integral part of playing the game. And this is why Pokemon Go is changing the way we play games.
Pokemon has come a long way from its humble beginnings. When it was released for the Nintendo gameboy many years ago, the game was all about trying to recreate the feeling of being a child and discovering different kinds of insects in the yard. Now, with the release of Pokemon Go, the game has finally come full circle -making use of Niantic's GPS based gaming mechanics first seen in Ingress, this augmented reality is literally bringing hundreds and thousands of gamers out to the real world and explore it for themselves.
In Pokemon Go, you take your mobile phone and use the camera to look for Pokemon. You might find some in your immediate surroundings, but for the most part, you need to really walk some distance to find them. To catch a Pokemon, you do a simple spin and flick minigame with Pokeballs. You can use incense or lures to make more Pokemon spawn in an area for a short amount of time. To get more supplies, you need to go to Pokestops for free Pokeballs and other stuff (like eggs which hatch into more Pokemon). The more Pokemon you catch, the higher your trainer level gets. Strengthening Pokemon requires you to exchange caught Pokemon for candies, which can be used to strengthen Pokemon of the same type (so powering up a rare Pokemon means hunting a lot more of that same rare Pokemon). When you reach level 5, you pick a faction and then get to participate in Gym battles where you either try to strengthen a faction gym or attack a rival gym.
Or why attack one in the first place -right? Well, as it turns out, there's a big bonus to having a gym of your own. And by this, we mean that you either control the gym or at least have a defender Pokemon on it. The reason is that the gym awards both Stardust and Pokecoins to all trainers with defenders assigned to the gym every 21 hours. This is very useful as it allows players to gain Pokecoins without having to spend.
Experience eggs are very valuable as they increase the amount of experience you can gain for a short time. So it makes sense to only use one when you are about to have a high exp gaining activity; being in an area with several Pokestops and active lures is worth it as you are likely to catch a lot of Pokemon in a fairly short amount of time. This is also a good time to do those evolutions too -each successful evolution will net you 500 experience points, which is something you will want to have the egg bonus for.
As we said, Pokemon Go is pretty much its own culture now, with players developing many community practices that are followed outside the game. And this is useful since the game can only control so many factors. Any experiences and interactions players have when exploring the world is outside of the game's control.
One of our favorite is when people lay down lures. Unlike an incense, a lure benefits more than one player. This also means that putting one down in a public area will likely attract other Pokemon Go players towards you (or you could be heading towards a lure other people put down). In any case, this is an expected event, and players tend to be quite welcoming of other Pokemon Go players. What's even better is that people take turns putting down lures. There's no specific order -anyone can do it anytime. But since lures are also paid items (Pokestops don’t give out Lures), this becomes a case of public generosity. And not surprisingly, people are quite willing to spend a few bucks to make everyone happy. So if you don't have the cash but have a lure as a reward for leveling up, you might consider using it here.
Some practices can be silly and fun, like the recent trend of players putting Magikarp as defenders in gyms. It's a sheer trolling move as Magikarps are some of the weakest Pokemon out there, and this move often entails using one with as low CP as possible (like 10). It’s a bit of a taunt at the rival gyms and is a lot of fun to see. Obviously, the Magikarp defender can be easily beaten, so this is often used by players who just want to beat a gym but cannot commit to defending it. On the other hand, we have also seen Magikarps being supported by 5 other stronger Pokemon as defenders.
On Reddit, there is a slowly growing community that calls themselves The Silph Road. This group aims to create a network of Pokemon Go players across the world on a much more grander scale to fan favourite Pokemon Tower Defense 2. Their purpose is to provide players with local centers that provide information on nearby Pokemon spawns, gyms, Pokestops and more. It seeks to become a social and trading hub for players as well. It still has a long way to go in its current stage, but movements and initiatives like these are proof that the Pokemon community is not only growing, but also supportive of each other -something we rarely see in other video game communities.