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This article was updated on 26 February 2020.
Unless you’ve been at a silent retreat or haven’t left the house all week you’ve probably heard of Pokémon Go. It’s an augmented reality (AR) and geolocation-based mobile game that’s taken the world by storm.
Though you’d be forgiven for thinking Pokémon Go was for children, plenty of adults are getting in on the fun, too, which is less surprising when you consider that Pokémon originally came out 20 years ago, when many of today’s 30-somethings were kids.
How it works
An AR what now? Pokémon Go uses the GPS antenna in your mobile phone to help you find animated creatures (called, as you might’ve guessed, 'Pokémon') out in the real world. Find one, and your device’s camera displays the actual world around you while the app overlays the virtual Pokémon you’ve found on the image.
Once you’ve found a Pokémon you catch it by launching Poké Balls with a flick of your finger. Aim correctly and the Ball opens and sucks the Pokémon into it before closing again. Tada! You’ve caught a Pokémon! You’ll be shown the stats of the Pokémon you’ve caught and it’ll be added to your Pokédex, which is simply a catalogue of everything you’ve caught.
Get outside and search for Pokéstops
Poké Balls are limited, but you can get more either by visiting Pokéstops or by buying in-game currency. Pokéstops tend to pop up at landmarks such as churches, monuments and other public spaces and appear as a floating cube on your map. Once you get close enough to one it turns into a set of circles. Tap on it and you’ll be presented with a coin-like disc that you spin with your finger. Give it a whirl and it’ll spit out Poké Balls and/or other items like potions.
Let the battle commence!
You can only use a Pokéstop every ten minutes or so, which is good encouragement to keep moving, but is very convenient if you happen to have one close to home or work. So, now that you’ve got items and Pokémon, what do you do with them? Once you’ve caught enough Pokémon to get your player to level five (which, if you visit a public park or other Pokémon goodies hotspot shouldn’t take more than an hour or two) you’ll be able to battle other players to assume ownership of other landmarks called 'gyms'.
Get yourself to the gym
Gyms are easy to spot on the map because they’re big and shiny and usually have a Pokémon hovering over them and doing its level best to look menacing. They’re also red, yellow or blue, depending on the colour of the player that owns them. Once you’ve hit level five you’re asked to join one of the three teams. Visit a gym of your team’s colour and you can help protect it with one of your Pokémon, but visit an opposing team’s gym and it’ll be time to fight.
For battles, you pick six of your Pokémon and try to attack your opponent’s Pokémon while dodging its attacks. Win the battle and you get ownership of the gym. And if you hang onto the gym for more than a day you’ll be rewarded with various items. Of course, you can also train, power up and trade your Pokémon with other players if you wish and there are various special items in the game like Incubators that let you hatch eggs by walking certain real-world distances or Lures, which attract Pokémon to a specific location for half an hour.
Why it's so fun
It’s easy to understand the appeal of Pokémon Go. It’s easy to play, pretty addictive thanks to frequent, variable rewards, and gets you out and about in the real world, usually on foot, and stopping at places you might not otherwise. In the first week of playing it, we’ve also met a handful of new people, most of them at the local park where we recognised their gestures like those of a fellow Pokémon trainer.