Pokémon GO becomes a new social experience


   Since its creation in 1995, the Pokémon franchise has continued to grow in popularity raking in about $1.5 billion on an annual basis through games, comics, cartoons, movies, cards, and other various merchandise and licensed products. Most recently, the franchise has done something they’ve never done before, teaming up with software development company Niantic Inc. to develop Pokémon GO, a mobile augmented reality app in which players can locate, catch, and battle virtual creatures.

   Pokémon GO was released in the United States last June and has become one of the most popular apps of 2016 with more than 500 million downloads worldwide. Through the game, players use their mobile phones’ GPS to find and capture virtual creatures called Pokémon. These fictional animals are able to appear on the player’s phone as if they were in the same real-world place as the player.

   “They have never had that kind of aspect in Pokémon. It’s always been on paper cards or poor quality video games but now everyone has a computer in their pocket and all of the Pokémon look amazing,” said junior Team Valor trainer Travis Powell in regards to the game’s graphics.

   Pokémon GO trainers can also discover hidden objects such as potions, berries, Pokéballs, and Pokémon eggs at special locations known as Pokéstops. These places are typically local historical landmarks or places of significance in communities. Here in Sheridan, Wyoming nearly every statue on Main Street and in Kendrick Park is a Pokéstop; as well as places like the Centennial Theatre, Los Agaves, and some local churches.

   The game is based on the original Pokémon Nintendo Game Boy games from the mid-1990’s. Currently, Pokémon GO includes the entire first generation of 151 original Pokémon introduced in the Kanto region in Pokémon Red and Blue. When players first download the app and create an account, they are introduced to the world of Pokémon by a professor (Professor Willow in this game) and are able to choose a starter Pokémon just like in the games. Trainers are able to pick between Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle as their first Pokémon, just like in Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue versions. Also, the different Pokémon that players find depend on the real world’s time of day, terrain, and weather, as in the games.

    As players run around the streets catching Pokémon, they are encouraged to get out of their homes, exercise, and breathe some fresh air. One of the most unique parts of the game is the Pokémon eggs because they can only hatch once players walk a distance of one kilometer, five kilometers, or even ten kilometers depending on the egg. If the player cheats by driving a car, biking, or riding on some form of public transportation in order to hatch their eggs, the game is able to register that the trainer is traveling faster than an average walking pace and will not allow the Pokémon to hatch.

   Junior and Team Valor trainer Zach Davis described his favorite part of the app, “It brings people outside and you get to meet a lot of new people who also play Pokémon GO. I consider that unique because it’s very hard to find a game that can do that.”

  Once they train up to level five, players are able to choose between three teams: Mystic, Valor, and Instinct. Also at this level they are granted the ability to battle Pokémon gyms which like Pokéstops can be found in any city at designated locations. At these gyms players can fight other trainers’ Pokémon to take over gyms for their team and earn Pokécoins which they can use to buy items in the game.

  Soon the creators of Pokémon GO will shed the beta title of the app by bringing Pokémon from the second generation to the game. This will include 100 new Pokémon from the Johto region of Pokémon Silver, Gold, and Crystal versions. The update is anticipated to satisfy fans and draw new players to the game.

  Pokémon GO is a fresh take on gaming brought to life by old, beloved video game characters. The app promotes and provides enjoyment, exercise, and a social experience for trainers of any age.