20 years ago Pokémon took over the world and were the largest attraction for children and even some adults. Originating from Japan, these Pokémon (“pocket monsters” in Japan) burst onto the scene with movies, a TV show, video games and collectible playing cards. Now Pokémon has reinvented itself to allow people to use their phones and become a Pokémon-master and captured virtual reality Pokémon in real time through the phone camera app.
After logging into the app for the first time, the player has the opportunity to create an avatar. The player can choose the avatar’s gender, hair, skin and eye color and can choose from a number of outfits. After creating the avatar, it will be displayed at the player’s current location along with a map of the player’s immediate surroundings. Features on the map may include a number of Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms. These are typically located at popular meeting places, such as memorials, places of worship, parks and tourist attractions.
Players have to walk around in the real world to move their avatar in the game. Different Pokémon live in different areas of the world; for example, water-type Pokémon are found near water. When a player encounters a Pokémon, they may view it in either Augmented Reality mode or with a pre-rendered background. AR mode utilizes the camera and gyroscope on the player’s mobile device to display an image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world. Players can also take pictures of the Pokémon using an in-game camera that they encounter both with and without the AR mode activated.
Unlike other installments in the Pokémon series, players in Pokémon Go do not battle wild Pokémon to capture them. Rather, the game relies on a unique capture system where the player must throw a pokéball with the right force and at the right time to make a successful catch. After capturing a wild Pokémon the player is awarded two types of in-game currencies: candies and stardust. The candies awarded by a successful catch depends on what evolutionary chain a Pokémon belongs to. A player can use stardust and candies to raise a Pokémon’s “combat power” (CP). However, only candies are needed to evolve a Pokémon. Each Pokémon evolution trees have their own type of candy which can only be used to evolve or level up. The player can also transfer the Pokémon back to the Pokémon Professor to earn one more candy and create room for more Pokémon.
Players earn experience points for a number of in-game actions. As the player earns experience points, they will raise in level. At level five the player is able to battle at a Pokémon gym and join one of three teams (red, blue or yellow) which act as larger factions within the Pokémon Go world. If a player enters a Pokémon gym that is controlled by a player that is not part of their team, they can challenge the leader to lower the gym’s “prestige”. Once the prestige of a gym is lowered to zero then the player will take control of the gym and is able to deposit one Pokémon to defend it. Similarly, a team can upgrade the prestige of a gym under their control by battling the gym leader.
The ability to blend different worlds, in real-time, simply by using a phone – as well as – the addictive, collecting of the Pokémon as you “catch” them; leads to one of the most downloaded and anticipated apps in years. Combine the fun and skill of the game, with the comradery of playing with others – and also, a bit of nostalgia among the players, and you have created an app that will take over the world and change the way people use their phones forever.