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Catch ’Em All in Your Town

Hypno is one of the Pokémon featured in Pokémon Go. Photo By Kayla Gangloff

Have you recently seen groups of people walking through town while staring at their phones? There’s a good chance they’re playing Pokémon Go, a popular new free-to-play mobile game that lets players search for monsters in the real world using their smartphones.

The Pokémon franchise, launched in 1995, quickly grew to encompass games, cartoons, movies, toys, trading cards and endless amounts of merchandise. The story is simple: Trainers capture Pokémon, aka pocket monsters, and use them to battle each other in an attempt to be “the very best.” 

There are hundreds of these critters to collect, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The well-known Pikachu is a small yellow rodent with electric powers. Charizard is a large orange dragon that breathes fire. Krabby is — you guessed it — a crab. The franchise’s motto? “Gotta catch ’em all!”

 

Augmented reality

Nintendo teamed up with Niantic to create the Pokémon Go augmented reality mobile game, which is just a fancy way of saying that it utilizes your surrounding environment. Players need to move around to search for Pokémon and interact with in-game structures at various physical locations. (If you’re wondering how these locations were chosen, they were submitted by players of Ingress, another augmented reality game made by Niantic.)

For example, I’m currently sitting at my desk at The Lake­ville Journal office. I just logged into Pokémon Go, and there’s a Venonat standing in the newsroom (it’s a ball of purple fur with large eyes and antennae). When I tap the creature, it appears on the screen as if it’s actually standing next to my desk. With a flick of my finger, I can try to capture the  Venonat using a Poké Ball. If I’m successful, the monster will be added to my inventory.

To find more Pokémon, I’m going to have to leave the newsroom. Perhaps I’ll walk toward the Lakeville Post Office, which happens to be a PokéStop — places in the real world that I can interact with to obtain more items, such as Poké Balls or health potions.

Behind the Boathouse in Lakeville, you’ll find a gym towering into the sky. That’s where players can battle their Pokémon. 

Once you hit level five in the game, you can head to a gym and pick one of three teams: Mystic (the blue team); Valor (the red team); and Instinct (the yellow team). Players fight for control of gyms, hoping to cover them in their team’s color. Some towns, such as Millbrook and Sharon, have multiple gyms.

The battle system isn’t great — it’s basically just mashing and swiping your fingers on the screen, rather than the turn-based system of previous Pokémon games — but it adds some friendly competition to Pokémon Go.

 

sense of community 

That friendly atmosphere seems to be a major draw to the game. Since I started playing during its U.S. release on July 6, I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of cheerful players I’ve bumped into in the streets of area towns and nearby cities.

I’ve been playing in Millerton a lot lately, and I’ve joined groups of players as we walked around town, getting exercise, helping each other spot Pokémon and working together to add Pokémon to the gym at the NorthEast-Millerton Library.

In fact, Kristin McClune, the library’s youth services coordinator, said that Pokémon Go has brought in new visitors.

 “Teens are coming to cool off and take the gym, and are signing up for summer reading,” she said. “Thanks to Pokémon Go, the age group we traditionally never see in the library now positively associates the library as a place to hang out and get books!”

The library now has a USB charging station that the public can use to recharge their phones — a move that is directly correlated to Pokémon Go.

There are flaws

Pokémon Go isn’t perfect. It is already the most popular mobile game in history, according to data from Surveymonkey, and Niantic is struggling to keep its servers running smoothly. Of course, this problem should be alleviated in the coming days and weeks.

The gameplay is also lacking. Niantic has stated the ability to trade Pokémon will be added in a future update, which will add more depth to Pokémon Go. It will be interesting to see what upgrades Niantic will add in the future.

Regardless, Pokémon Go is fun for all ages. Have fun catching them all!