Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm. It was developed in partnership between Niantic (The people behind the augmented reality game Ingress) and Gamefreak (The people who make Pokémon video games). When it was announced a year ago it had a lot of potential. Pokémon is a well loved brand that is popular now AND old enough to have nostalgic players hungry to recapture the glory days of their youth.
The game itself can be difficult to describe. It is an augmented reality game. This means that is a game that layers game mechanics onto real world locations. In the case of Pokémon Go, this means using Google Maps data and dropping Pokémon all over the map for us to find. The difference is that we can’t just go there in a game, we have to walk their or drive there ourselves.
A lot of parents have been caught off guard by the game’s release. As a result we are publishing this guide to help parents understand what the game is and the basics of playing it. We will follow up with additional content including an FAQ and a deeper strategy discussion to help people play the game at any level they choose. Take a look below and be sure to share this with any of your bewildered friends.
What is Pokémon Go?
It’s a hot new app developed by Niantic labs (makers of Ingress) that is being played by kids and adults alike all over the world. It’s making headlines everywhere, and here at EFG, we’ve got all of the details.
At it’s core, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality app playable ONLY on your phone. It uses the camera on your phone along with your phone’s GPS features. As you walk various places, the GPS places your avatar on a map and you can discover Pokémon in the world around you. You get to be a Pokémon trainer and catch Pokémon. The app also interacts with the map by bringing you to landmarks such as parks, historical sites, municipal buildings, churches, etc. that are Poké Stops where you can get free goodies to aid you in your endeavors to catch ‘em all! There are even gyms where you can test your Pokémon trainer skills and have a Pokémon battle.
But, all of these cool features are based on the idea that you KEEP MOVING. If you don’t walk, you quickly become unable to advance in the game. It’s designed to get people outdoors and moving.
How do I get started?
After downloading the app and FULLY CHARGING (more on that later) your device, you can go ahead and load up the game. You need a Google account or you need to sign up for a Pokémon Trainer Club account to log in. Once you log in, you start by immediately choosing a Trainer avatar to represent you on the map. You can customize gender, skin tone, hair and eye color and basic clothing. After you choose your avatar, you are introduced to Professor Willow. He will explain some very basic info about the game and ask you to choose your first Pokémon. The Pokémon that you can choose from are Squirtle(water type), Bulbasaur(grass type), and Charmander(fire type). Anyone familiar with the earliest incarnation of Pokémon will immediately recognize these little guys. That’s all there is to starting the game.
How do I play?
When you start, your screen will look like a grid of unmarked roads. If you look closely, you will recognize the map as the area that you are physically standing at. You may see rustling grass (marking Pokémon in the area), and local landmarks disguised as Poké Stops and Pokémon Gyms. As you move in the real world, your avatar does too. Pokémon will pop up on the map with a small vibration as you walk along. If you tap on the Pokémon that appears, you can attempt to capture it.
You will also see your avatar icon on the bottom left of the screen. You can tap on this to view your character’s level and achievements. In the center of your screen you will see a Pokéball. Tapping on this Pokéball will bring up other items such as your backpack, your Pokédex, your personal Pokémon inventory, and the settings and tips for playing the game. On the bottom right of your screen you will see a grey or white rectangle with nearby Pokémon in it. You can tap it to expand it and see what else is nearby.
Once you’ve found a Pokémon, it’s time to throw a Poké Ball to try and capture it. You “throw” in game by touching and holding your Poké Ball. When you do this a glowing ring that shrinks and expands will appear around the Pokémon. When the ring gets to its smallest, you want to swipe your Poké Ball directly toward the creature and release your finger. You want to aim towards hitting the Pokémon on the head. If you have successfully captured the Pokémon the ball will shake a few times and it will say “Gotcha”. If you are unsuccessful, the Pokémon will jump out of the ball after one or two shakes.
A note on the rings around the Pokémon: if the ring is green, it means the Pokémon is friendly and easier to catch. As you get farther into the game, it gets harder to catch Pokémon. If the ring is yellow or red, you know this match will be a challenge. Don’t worry though, the game provides ways to make it so you can still catch plenty of those cute creatures.
More than one player can catch the same Pokémon; if you and another person see the same Pokémon on your screen, you can both capture it. There is no need to race each other to be the first to catch it.
Poké Stops are the tall poles with blue cubes on top of them spread out across your map. These typically coincide with physical landmarks in the real world. You can tap on it to find out exactly what the location is even if you are not in range. When a Poké Stop is within range, the blue cube will transform into a spinning circle. Inside the circle, you’ll see the Poké Stop symbol, the location’s photo, and maybe some historical info. Swipe the disc with the picture on it to spin it, and bubbles with pop up with items like Poké Balls, Poké Eggs, potions, lures, incense and more.
Please note: you can’t activate the Poké Stop to collect items, experience, and Poké Eggs unless you move within a close proximity to the actual landmark. As you increase in levels, you unlock new items to collect. After you visit a Poké Stop, the blue icon will turn purple and you will be unable to access it for at least five minutes.
When you reach level five and visit a Gym (Don’t worry we’ll explain that in a bit), you’ll be asked to join one of three color-coded teams:
- Yellow – Team Instinct – Mascot: Zapdos
- Blue – Team Mystic – Mascot: Articuno
- Red – Team Valor – Mascot: Moltres
The teams do not affect the types of Pokémon you encounter, they only affect gym battles. Choosing a team of a specific color is the only way to interact with your friends (so far). You use your color to help take over and level up gyms. If you possess a gym, you get rewards like Poké Coins and Stardust, which can help you level up and evolve your Pokémon.
Much like Poké Stops, Gyms are physical landmarks. You interact with a gym by tapping it and activating it just like a PokéStop. This is where Pokémon battles happen. Players can claim them for their team, or help level up a Gym already claimed for your color to build up its prestige. Trainers can take over an unoccupied Gym and claim it for team Yellow-Instinct, Blue-Mystic, or Red-Valor. If you encounter a Gym and your team’s color is already in control of it, you can train your Pokémon in the Gym one at a time. If the Gym is controlled by another color’s team, you’ll need to battle the Pokémon standing guard to lower its prestige and take over control of the Gym.
Gyms earn prestige when you train your Pokémon in one that your team controls, and lose prestige when opposing teams win battles against the Pokémon left there. As a Gym’s level increases, so does the number of Gym Leaders allowed.
Gym battles are mini-games where the goal is to attack the opposing Pokémon, and dodge their attacks. While battling, you have three options: You can tap the screen to attack, press and hold the screen to initiate a special attack, or swipe left or right to dodge an opponent’s attack. Your goal is to lower the opponent’s Pokémon to zero hit points.
To steal control of a Gym that is already occupied by an opposing color you have to defeat ALL of the Gym Leaders’ Pokémon in it. Beating leaders lowers the Gym’s prestige and it can take multiple attempts to actually take over the whole Gym.
Why do we care? If you occupy a Gym, you help your team AND earn Poké Coins, too! Every 20-24 hours, you earn 10 Gold Poké Coins and 500 Stardust as reward for staying in the Gym. You can use these Poké Coins to purchase items in the Shop and the Stardust to level up your Pokémon to make them more powerful.
The Shop is where you can purchase items that are necessary to advancing in the game. You can purchase these items with Poké Coins or with real world money via microtransactions and in app purchases. Items that can be found in The Shop include Poké Balls to capture Pokémon, Incense to lure them, and potions and revives to heal them after Gym battles. Please note: You don’t ever HAVE to spend real money. You can stock up on most items just by visiting Poké Stops.
- Incense- lures Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes
- Potion- Spray type medicine for treating wounds. It restores the HP (health) of 1 Pokémon by 20 points
- Revive- a medicine that can revive fainted Pokémon. It also restores half of a fainted Pokémon’s maximum HP
- Lucky Eggs- grant you double experience for 30 minutes
- Lure Module- draw Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes. Other nearby players also benefit from the effect. (This is a great way for friends to help each other!)
- Razz Berries- feed it to a Pokémon, it makes it easier to catch on you next throw (use when Pokémon is circled red or orange)
- Poké Eggs- which can hatch into new Pokémon with the use of an Egg Incubator (you hatch eggs in the incubator by walking a certain distance listed with each egg)
Advancing in the Game
Upgrading your Pokémon
If you want to battle at Gyms you need to have strong Pokémon. The strength of the Pokémon is displayed as CP (combat power). A Pokemon’s Combat Power determines how useful it will be in Gym Battles.
You can increase your Pokémon’s CP by either using the “Power Up” option or the “Evolve” option. Pokémon evolution is a major theme in both the cartoon series and the games. It is no different here in Pokémon Go. Evolving a Pokémon gives it a boost to its CP, health, and changes it’s abilities. It also turns the Pokémon into a new form, giving you access to more entries in your Pokédex. This gives you experience points and helps fill out the Pokédex to make you one step closer to catching them all!
Pokémon can only be Powered Up or Evolved using two specific items. These items are called Stardust and Candy. You earn both of them by capturing Pokemon and by leveling up or completing challenges. Stardust is universal. You can use it for any of your Pokémon. Candy is specific to different species and their evolutions. For example, capturing Caterpies will earn you Caterpie candy that you can use to evolve Caterpies into their various forms (Metapod and Butterfree)
To Upgrade your Pokémon you need to complete the following steps:
From the main screen of the game, tap the Pokéball in the center.
- Tap on the Pokémon button.
- Select the Pokémon you wish to level up or evolve.
- Scroll down to the Power Up or Evolve buttons and select the one you’d like to use. (The cost for each is listed to the right of the button, with your total supply of Stardust and Candy listed above the buttons.)
- The game will automatically either power up or evolve your creature.
Advancing your Trainer Level
Your Trainer Level advances in multiple ways. The easiest way to advance your trainer level is to catch Pokémon. Every time you catch one you gain XP. You also gain XP by interacting with Poké Stops and Gyms as we discussed above. One of the best ways to advance your Trainer Level is to Evolve your Pokémon. As your Trainer Level advances you can take on more difficult Gym Battles, you may encounter stronger and more rare Pokémon, and you get access to better items from Poké Stops.
This is our guide to Pokémon Go so far! Sound off in the comments if you have additional thoughts or if you think we missed anything! We’ll be updating this post regularly and adding even more content to Engaged Family Gaming in the coming weeks!
Thanks for all this info I was a lil puzzled tonight when my daughter beat out a Red gym and got the top spot she is Mystic Blue. the gym changed to Blue and with in 10 minutes 3 trainers fought her and one took over top spot with a lower level combat level. What puzzled us was the 3 trainers were Blue Mystic. why wouldn’t they just join this Blue Gym to give it Prestige? I kinda think that maybe they are really Red trainers and put a lower combat level trainer in the top spot so Red can knock them out and take over the Blue Gym….
That’s a really good question. I agree with you. That seems like they should have just given it prestige.