Why is Pokemon Go So Popular?
Pokemon Go, an app that uses augmented reality to make it appear that Pokemon characters are hiding everywhere you walk, has taken the world by storm. It is so popular because it taps into the nostalgic fun of collecting the pocket monsters that were cultural icons in card and video games back in the 1990s and 2000s. It resonates now because it cleverly puts the collecting mechanism onto your phone. It is brilliant because, to collect these virtual Pokemon, the player needs to walk, thus encouraging millions of people to get more exercise.
How to Play
After signing in (you have to be 13 years or older, but, if you are a kid under age 13, you can sign up under a parental account), you become a Pokemon Trainer. You select your name and create an avatar to be your on-screen self. Then you start walking.
As you walk, you see a real map of your location and your avatar walking on that map. Using augmented reality, Pokemon Go superimposes cute animated monsters into the map view of you walking, to make it appear that Pokemon are all around you.
When you see a Pokemon and tap on it, the game changes to a capture mode. You have Poke Balls to throw at a Pokemon to capture it. But not all throws bag a Pokemon; and, as the game progresses, the more powerful Pokemon are wilier about being caught. Luckily, after you have been playing for a while, the game provides you with stronger Poke Balls that have higher catch rates.
The game keeps track of the Pokemon you catch, and you can visit your collection at any time. It also catalogues when you find a new Pokemon in the game's Pokedex -- an index showing you that there are 149 possible Pokemon to collect.
In addition to collecting Pokemon, you can also evolve some Pokemon into new ones. Each time you catch a type of Pokemon, you get a certain amount of that Pokemon's candy. By capturing several of the same kind, you will eventually have enough candies to evolve one of that type of Pokemon. Some types of Pokemon can be evolved twice.
Another aspect of the game involves visiting Pokestops and Poke Gyms. The game developer has placed these virtual places on the real map. Many Pokestops and Poke Gyms are found at historic places, popular destinations, or other random spots. When you come upon a Pokestop, you can spin a dial and earn Poke Balls and other items that help you as a Pokemon Trainer.
Poke Gyms are places to train and battle with other players. A battle is as simple as selecting a team of Pokemon and then tapping the screen repeatedly to attack. You can also swipe, to defend against your opponent's attacks. At a certain point in the game, you will be asked to select a team (yellow, red, or blue). Gyms change colors to reflect which team has won. If the gym you are passing is the same color as your team, you can train at that gym to make the gym stronger for your team.
The last aspect of the game is evolving your trainer. As you play, you earn experience points for the things you do, such as capturing Pokemon, evolving new Pokemon, visiting Pokestops, and training in gyms. When a trainer reaches a specific number of points, he or she evolves to the next level of trainer. Each evolution, awards you with new items you can use in the game, including potions to treat wounded Pokemon after battles, Lucky Eggs that earn you double experience points for 30 minutes, incense and lures to get Pokemon to come to you, Pokemon eggs and incubators, and more.
Pokemon Go or Pokemon No?
is a delightful pastime to encourage kids and families to walk. It is brilliant in how it keeps evolving and sustaining players' interest. For example, right before Halloween, the game made it easy to find a wide variety of spookier Pokemon, and the one that looks like a cat. It really does motivate kids to walk and explore new places, which makes them willing to run errands with their parents and go on trips. Plus, the Pokestops contain historic information, so kids can learn about the world as they play.
The weakest aspect of the game is the battling at the gyms. There just isn't a whole lot to it. Luckily, this is not the major focus of the game. We also don't like the product placements. Every Starbucks in now a Pokestop and the information displayed is about Starbucks' products.
Since Pokemon Go
is for everyone, not just kids, it has some aspects that parents will need to manage:
- Remind kids not to trespass. Pokemon can show up anywhere, so parents need to remind kids not to chase Pokemon that appear on private property.
- Strangers may talk to you. A fun aspect of this game is seeing others playing it and discovering from them where the rare Pokemon can be found. Depending on the age of your children, parents should plan to be along to manage this. For teens, it is best to have them play with friends and prohibit playing at certain locations or at specific times (such as at night).
- In-app purchases. Pokemon Go is a free game with in-app purchases. It can be played without buying anything via in-app purchases. However, if you live in a remote area where Pokestops are infrequent, you will run out of Pokeballs and may find that you need to buy some using real money. For young kids, turn off in-app purchases from the Settings app of your device, and then have a family discussion about when and if it makes sense to buy anything in the game.
- Be careful while walking. Pokemon Go is known to create distracting walking. Players have their heads down looking at the screen rather than paying attention to where they are in the real world. I suggest a buddy system when playing, where players take turns keeping each other safe.
- The game is addictive. On the plus side, kids will want to play it and thus get exercise (you must walk to find Pokemon and to hatch Pokemon eggs). On the negative side, instead of talking, players hunt Pokemon and tune out the rest of the world. Families will want to review rules around screen time and when it is appropriate to play this game. Parents, I would recommend that you play too, so that you can have meaningful conversations about the complexities of the game with your kids.
Pokemon Go is the perfect game for kids who love to collect things. We set the age at 13, but much younger kids will enjoy it IF they play with an adult or older sibling. It is also a great game for families to play together. My two sons and I have been playing it for several months, and we are still enjoying the game. We have played Pokemon Go as we traveled and have had fun conversations with strangers and among ourselves.
This Pokemon Go app review was written by Jinny Gudmundsen.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.