A Quick Guide to Pokemon Go
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is a mobile game based on the characters and themes of Pokémon. Pokémon is a franchise originally developed by Nintendo in 1991 for the Nintendo DS game system in which the player controlled a “trainer” who would capture wild Pokémon (POcKEt MONsters) with special balls and then compete against other trainers and their Pokémon. Pokémon are creatures aligned with different elemental types (see below). It quickly gained popularity as a television cartoon and then as a collectible card game.
Pokémon Go once again lets the player control a trainer who can find Pokémon in the “real world.” Using Google Maps, the phone tracks where the player is and then generates (spawns) Pokémon at different GPS points which the player can then catch. With these Pokémon, besides attempting to “catch them all,” the player can enter “gyms” (which are located at points of interest such as murals, libraries, statues, and civic centers) and fight other Pokémon for the control of the gym. There are three teams: Valor (Red), Mystic (Blue), and Instinct (Yellow).
Pokémon Go is also referred to as an Augmented Reality (AR) game, as game play augments reality: using players’ GPS coordinates and their phones’ cameras, it places the Pokémon into the real world so that a Zubat (a bat-like Pokémon) appears flying around in the real world.
Who owns / operates Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go was designed and is operated by Niantic a Bay Area-based videogame company. This is Niantic’s second game using Google maps and AR.
How Pokémon Go’s game mechanics work
Pokémon Go’s game mechanics allow players to level up by capturing Pokémon, battling other players’ characters in Pokégyms, gathering eggs at Pokéstops and then hatching Pokémon by walking certain distances. Pokémon Go is thus location based. GPS on player’s phones tracks where they are and sends that data back to Niantic’s servers which then populate a world wherein wild Pokémon emerge. By swiping Pokéballs and hitting Pokémon the player is able to catch them and store them. With every catch, the player is also awarded “moondust” and candy specific to the type of Pokémon they have caught. With a combination of moondust and candy, players can either power up their Pokémon or evolve them into more powerful versions.
When players achieve level 5 they must choose a team: Red / Valor, Yellow / Instinct, and Blue / Mystic. Other than some thematic coloring there is no effect on game play besides fighting for or against Valor, Mystic, or Instinct Pokégyms.
Does it cost money?
Pokémon Go is a freemium game in that players can play for free, but the game also includes a store where players can purchase items with Pokécoins —coins which in turn can either be earned by controlling Pokégyms or by spending actual money (i.e. 100 Pokécoins = $0.99 and 14,500 Pokécoins = $99.99).
How to use Pokéstops and Pokégyms
Pokéstops are physical points of interest located at certain cultural markers or locations where players can touch the Pokéstop image on their phone and by spinning the disc that appears onscreen, gather helpful items in their quest to catch ‘em all.
Pokégyms are training areas where trainers level 5 and up can enter to fight other players’ Pokémon. Gyms with Pokémon inside are always associated with one of the three teams, and by beating all the Pokémon of an opposing team, players can take control of the gym. If players fight and win rounds inside their own team’s gym they are able to give the gym prestige points which allows more players to add their Pokémon to the roster of defenders, thus making the Gym harder to beat. Players who have Pokémon defending gyms cannot use those Pokémon to battle other gyms until their Pokémon is defeated by an opponent. When a player has a Pokémon in a gym, they can open up the store icon in the game and claim rewards such as Pokécoins.
When looking at a gym there will usually be a small boxing glove on the lower right hand side; touch this to enter the ring and fight with a Pokémon of your choice! And remember some Pokémon are better suited to fighting other Pokémon types!
And did you know that most Alameda County Libraries are either Pokégyms or Pokéstops? Be sure to stop by your local AC Library to see what Pokémon may be hiding in the stacks!
Health and Safety Precautions
Pokémon Go is potentially very good for players as it asks trainers to walk around looking for Pokémon, thus encouraging literally thousands of people to go outside and take walks. The game can be a little distracting to some however; people have fallen, walked in front of cars and people and animals because their eyes were on their phones’ screens—but remember! Players’ phones will vibrate when a Pokémon is near so there’s no reason to look at the phone the entire time one is playing. As Pokémon Go reminds players every time they open the app, be aware of your surroundings, don’t drive and play, don’t trespass, and don’t enter dangerous areas.
Pokémon Go and Privacy
Pokémon Go uses Google Maps to locate where the player actually is in the landscape and as such players relinquish a small amount of privacy—the same amount many give up any time they use Google Maps or Waze. Additionally, Niantic uses Google, Facebook, or Pokémon Training Center accounts to create Pokémon Go accounts; using Google as an example, this also gives Niantic access to ”certain personal information” from your account (see https://www.nianticlabs.com/terms/pokemongo/en) as well as stating that in any dispute, unless you opt out, “you agree that disputes between you and Niantic will be resolved by binding, individual arbitration, and you are waving your right to a trial by jury or to participate as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class action or representative proceeding”—basically, that players cannot sue Niantic and nor can players join class action lawsuits. Finally, on Niantic's privacy page (https://www.nianticlabs.com/privacy/pokemongo/en/) they state that they may make privacy changes with retroactive effect, and that they will contact players if they make any changes.
There’s a lot to unpack in Niantic’s terms and privacy settings, so taking the time to read both and opt out from Niantic’s arbitration notice is recommended.
Helpful Links and Articles
The Centerville Library was recently featured as a Bay Area hotspot for Pokémon Go http://kron4.com/2016/07/12/video-bay-area-hotspots-for-new-pokemon-go-augmented-reality-game/
What libraries need to know about Pokémon Go
Find Pokémon near you
https://pokevision.com/ -- Find Pokémon near you
Compare Pokémon types, strengths, and weaknesses
Pokémon Go Bay Area Meetups
http://www.meetup.com/pokemongobayarea/ -- Pokémon Go Bay Area Meetups
Alameda County Library Pokémon Events
Pokémon Go Hunt at Castro Valley Library on Monday, August 1 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Players 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
Other Articles of Interest
Rob Thubron, “Criminals use Pokémon Go to lure victims and rob them at gunpoint,” TechSpot, July 11, 2016.
Joseph Bernstein, “You Should Probably Check Your Pokémon Go Privacy Settings,” BuzzFeed, July 11, 2016.
Andrea Peterson, “Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokémon here,” Washington Post, July 12, 2016.
Paul Ollig, “National Park Rangers Will Help You Hunt Pokémon On The National Mall” by Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed, July 11, 2016.