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What is it?

It's a cellphone game based off the incredibly popular Pokemon franchise, you noodle!

Less sass, more detail, please?

Pokemon Go is the Pokemon franchise's latest attempt to get people outside. First there was the old trading system, then the Pokewalker, and now this evil, ingenious creation.

More specifically, Pokemon Go is an AR smartphone game, co-created by Nintendo and Niantic and developed by Niantic, wherein you, the player, find Pokemon in your real life location. No no, they did not master genetic engineering and release an untold number of poke-critters into the world. Instead, the game utilizes your phone's GPS to find your location on the map (using Google Maps software) and drops randomly generated digital Pokemon around you. The game alerts you when a Pokemon is near, and you see it pop up on your map. After clicking on it, the game opens your phone camera and makes it look as though the offending Pokemon is in your actual area, with some rudimentary placement AI giving the impression of the Pokemon being on a nearby surface, or in front/behind things in the foreground/background.

If you have even a passing familiarity with the other multitudes of games or the TV show, then you'll know what happens next. The player throws Pokeballs (devices that capture Pokemon), the Pokemon either escapes or is captured, and you are one Pokemon closer to being the very best like no one ever was. The catch-- at least to us sedentary types who normally partake in Pokemon games-- is that you have to actually go out and find them. A small screen in the corner of the main screen tells you what Pokemon are near, and offers a vague footprint-system telling you their distance (I've heard that 3 paw prints is 30 meters, 30 yards, and 30 feet. I can't wait until we get some solid info on this) and you, like Ash and his numerous interchangeable companions that came before, must go out and find them like an actual Pokemon trainer.

There are some changes to the game mechanics as compared to the other games-- obviously. Instead of battling Pokemon to level them up, Pokemon instead level up with species-specific candies that are given to the player by the game's resident Pokemon Professor, Professor Willow-- who does NOT look like a Pokemon Professor, dammit. He looks like a model for sportswear. He looks like he wants to sell me a bike, which is in keeping with the game's true goal of getting you out of doors and interacting with the world.

The Pokemon are not the only ones who level up; the player also has a level based on how many Pokemon they've caught, how many eggs they've hatched, how many Pokestops they've visited, and how many gymless badges they've earned.

Eggs? Pokestops? Non-Gym Badges? Huh?

Among the many differences between this game and the more traditional Pokemon games are some game-specific items and mechanisms not found elsewhere.

Pokestops

Pokestops (sometimes called "Pokedrops") are places where players may receive items for the game. On the map they appear as strange blue cubes floating over weird little statue-y thingies. When the player gets close enough to take items from them, the cubes sprout open into the Pokemon Go logo. If the player clicks on them, a screen opens up with the location's name, a short description (usually) and an image of the place inside of a circle, which the player taps on to spin. 2-5 items will pop out of the spinning picture, and the player can tap on them to collect. After a Pokestop has been harvested, it will turn magenta in the map, and it will take another 5 minutes before the player can collect from it again.

Pokestops typically are places in your area (if you are lucky) that have some form of cultural or aesthetic significance. For example, we have a Pokestop at my local church. There are several at the nearby shopping center at the statues and murals there, and there are dozens at the nearby cemetery (which is across the street from the shopping center and down the road from the church. San Jose is organized oddly.)

Pokestops are particularly significant because they are one of the few ways players may obtain pokeballs (the others being paying for them with real money via in-game purchases, or waiting around to level up and receive a set amount.)

Aside from pokeballs, the Pokestops also drop:

    Eggs
So like in the other games, there are eggs from which Pokemon hatch. Unlike the games, they are not the result from Pokemon breeding (well, none that we see), but are instead collected at Pokestops. Eggs come in three flavors: 2km, 5lm, and 10km. The #km is how many kilometers you need to walk in order to get the egg to hatch. 2km eggs hold very common pokemon, 5km hold regular-common-ish pokemon, and the 10km hold rarer pokemon (and also eevees, which some people are bitter about.) Eggs are hatched with Incubators.
    Incubators
Though the mechanic of walking eggs to hatch them is in keeping with the original games, the methods are different; aside from actually having to walk (instead of just making your character do so), you must also utilize incubators. Incubators come in two sorts. The player automatically has one eternal incubator that will hatch an infinite number of eggs regardless of how many times it is used. The other kind of incubator can be won from a pokestop, and it is limited to three eggs, after which it will break and vanish.
    Razz Berries
Razz Berries are new item that, when given to a feral Pokemon, make them slightly easier to catch on the next throw. However, if you consecutively fail after giving a Razz Berry, the effect will wear off and you have to give them another one.
    Potions, Super Potions, and Revives
As in the original games, these items are healing items used to revive fallen Pokemon or restore health to injured ones.

Gyms

The gyms in Pokemon Go are unlike previous iterations. Like Pokestops, gyms are placed in populated public areas (again favoring things of communal or cultural significance), are visible from the map, and accessible once you are close enough. Rather than having a set gym leader, gyms begin life "grayed out" and vacant. The lucky discovering player then drops off a pokemon of their choosing to defend the gym for their team (more on that in a moment). Other players then find the gym and either lose to it (giving the original player experiences and goodies) or they beat it, in which case the original player gets their pokemon back, and the new victor replaces it with one of their own. As of now there is a way of abusing the system wherein someone waits by a gym, and as soon as the victor finishes the battle, the bystander will "snipe" the gym, claiming it and placing their pokemon before the victor's screen loads. This is a dick move. Gyms are accessible only after the player has reached level 5. Also of note; as of right now there is no official tutorial on how battling in gyms work. The game sorta drops you into it. For those of you wondering, you basically spam-tap on your opponent. Tapping quickly will use your pokemon's "first," weaker attack, which also charges your stronger secondary attack. Holding down on the enemy will use your secondary attack.

Teams

Teams are nonsense that mean nothing, but people will still figuratively, digitally, and physically fight you about them. When the player hits level five and become eligible to participate in gym fights, they are asked to choose between three teams, Valor, Mystic, and Instinct.
    Mystic
Mystic is the blue team, and its symbol is the legendary ice-bird pokemon Articuno. Mystic's ideology revolves around cool scientific study of pokemon with an emphasis on the process of evolution. The idea is that only through analyzing traits carefully, picking and choosing pokemon tailored to battle well, and evolving them (thus making them stronger) can a player be a successful pokemon trainer. It is currently the most popular team.
    Valor
Valor is Red, and it's symbol is the legendary fire-bird pokemon Moltress. Valor's ideology is about strength and bettering yourself and your pokemon through forging strong bonds together and laying waste to all who would stand in your way. It is currently the second largest of the teams, and the common joke is that while Valor gets along well enough with Instinct, Valor and Mystic hate each other's guts.
    Instinct

Instinct is yellow, and it is represented by the electric-type legendary bird pokemon Zapdos. Instinct's ideology is basically "winging it"-- literally relying on intuition to choose and battle pokemon. The idea is that pokemon are all strong in their own way naturally, and that things will work out if you use your best judgement. Out of the three, Instinct is the smallest team, and is characterized as the friendly bystander while Valor and Mystic are grappling on the playground.

Candy, Evolution, and CP

As mentioned, Pokemon no longer evolve from leveling up or meeting the other requirements from the games (like friendliness levels, trading, or evolution stones) but instead evolve through consumption of species-specific candy. How much candy it takes for a Pokemon to evolve is dependent on its species and current evolutionary status. Pokemon like Pidgey and Caterpie, who are incredibly common and are the first steps in a three tier evolutionary process, only need 12 candies to evolve, while Pigeotto and Metapod (the respective secondary forms) need 50 candies each. Pokemon that only have two evolutionary stages usually use 50 candies. The second-to-third tier pokemon typically use 100 candies.

The exceptions so far seem to be Eevee, who uses 25 candies and whose eeveelution is randomized between the three forms Eevee can take (Eevee is special because in other games it has about a dozen different evolutionary forms that are achieved only by using evolution stones or via friendliness/location/time). The other exception is Magikarp, who is the most useless Pokemon in the game until he evolves into Gyrados, one of the most badass Pokemon. Magikarp needs 400 candies.

Candy, along with stardust, is also used to level up a Pokemon's "CP"-- Combat Power, which is the replacement for the traditional leveling system.

Candies are acquired in two ways: capturing Pokemon and sending them to the meat grinder-- I mean transferring them to Professor Willow! The in game explanation is that you are sending the useless spare Pokemon to Professor Willow so he can study them and tag them and do catch and release and all manner of science stuff. In practicality, you are throwing them into a wood chipper that spits out candy instead of guts.

When you capture a Pokemon, you receive three of that species candy. When you transfer one, you receive a single piece of candy.

Badges and Player Levels

Traditionally, Badges were awarded to pokemon trainers for defeating a gym leader in a pokemon battle. Due to the impermanent and disorganized nature of the Pokemon Go gym system, this is no longer the case. Instead, Badges are earned by the player when they complete various achievements. Examples include "caught 50 bird type pokemon" and "walked 10 km" and the like.

Badges appear to have three levels; the shadowed-out first stage when you haven't completed the task yet ("catch 10 bird type pokemon"), the copper colored visible badge when you have completed the first tier task and are in the process of the second "catch 50 bird type pokemon") the silver for completing the 2nd tier and beginning 3rd ("Catch 100 bird type pokemon") and then presumably there's gold tier tasks after that.

Players gain levels and experience through the completion of those tasks, as well as catching pokemon, evolving pokemon, hatching pokemon, and visiting pokestops. Some examples include:

           
ActionExp Gain
Catch a Pokemon 100
Catch a NEW Pokemon 500
Evolve a Pokemon 500
Hatch a 2km Egg 200
Hatch a 5km Egg 500
Hatch a 10km Egg 1000
Great Throw 50
Nice Throw 10
Visit a Pokestop 50

The higher a player's level, then the higher the CP and rarity of encountered pokemon.

Social Impact

Here in 2016 land, when the game has just come out, things are getting weeeeeird, but in the best possible way.

It is a FREE POKEMON GAME. How the hell can you think it's NOT going to be massively popular? Currently the game is the highest downloaded free phone game as well as the highest grossing. It seems like everyone and their mothers are joining in, even if they didn't care for Pokemon before.

Despite some curmudgeonly grumbling from people who are upset that other people are going outside and having fun, the game has had a massive positive impact in the short time it's been out. There have been numerous reports and testimonials about people with social anxiety or agoraphobia going outside and meeting people, sometimes for the first time in years. While some stores and businesses are complaining about the sudden onslaught of people running around (there's an infamous picture of a sign saying "Pokemon are for paying customers only"), the majority have embraced the new pool of potential customers.

While people who don't know otherwise see Pokemon as a "kids" thing, what they fail to realize is that the "kids" who grew up embedded in the stuff are now in their 20s and 30's, and that this game is basically the closest any of us will get to finding pokemon in real life until genetic engineering kicks it up a notch.


Of course it's not all sunshine and roses; there have been a few instances where people aren't paying attention to what they're doing and getting hurt-- despite the fact that the game loading screen specifically tells you to be careful and look out. The most notable of these incidents includes a driver crashing into a police car. However, there are also numerous rumors and stories people are making up, so it's best to fact check these things. In any case, things are getting more interesting out there.

There was a Clefairy named LoveIsLove outside the Westboro Baptist Church (those loons who picket gay weddings and soldier's funerals) and they have retaliated with a jigglypuff.

Also some girl found a body while looking for water type pokemon, so that's fun too.


If I forgot to mention anything, go ahead and shoot me a message!

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