Pokémon Go takes a video game outdoors

OKEECHOBEE — The newest craze on the App Store and Google Play Store is also a heavy hitting social app for a vast amount of smartphone users around the globe.

Pokémon Go is, of course, the single/multi-player game is based around every 90s kid’s dream: to have the ability to go outside and catch Pokémon, for real. Now, the game doesn’t give you actual fictional creatures. But, you can house, train and battle digital versions of all your favorite Pokémon through the app on your smartphone.

The game’s developer, Niantic, created the game to further the Pokémon franchise and to get people moving and exercising while catching their favorite Pokémon. What they didn’t expect is how wildly popular the app would become seemingly overnight. The game skyrocketed to the top of the App Store and currently sits at #1 of the App Store’s charts.

The game itself is based off of the television show that began in the 90s, the very same show that dawned the creation of Nintendo games and a wildly successful collectible card game. But, even after catching Pokémon in a handheld game, or opening a new pack of Pokémon cards, the average consumer felt detached from actually obtaining Pokémon. That is, until the release of Pokémon Go.

The game uses GPS location services to accurately pinpoint your location and the servers generate Pokémon for you to catch. Where it really gets interesting is how the game uses GPS information to determine what type or how many Pokémon are going to be around you. For example, if you were in an urban area, you would find different types and more Pokémon than a player in a rural location. The GPS data also is used in real time, so if there is a large amount of smartphone traffic in a given location, the probability of finding new or rare Pokémon increases, and certain times of day can also influence what type of Pokémon are generated, as some Pokémon can only be found during the day or night.

Around Lake Okeechobee, one can hope for many water-type Pokémon, but the game doesn’t completely base what Pokémon will generate based off of the user’s location. There are many water-type Pokémon to be found around, or on, the Big O, but you can also find normal-type Pokémon almost anywhere. Still, if you are out boating on Lake Okeechobee, you will probably run into a lot of Magikarp….

What to do when you find a Pokémon? Simply tap on it and the game will open your camera and display the Pokémon in front of you. Touch the pokéball and swipe up on the screen to “throw” the pokéball icon at the Pokémon, and if it hits, the ball will “wobble” three times; during these movements, the Pokémon can break free, but if three stars shoot from the top of the ball then you’ve caught a Pokémon!

Now, the stronger the Pokémon, the harder it is to catch, and there are items that can increase your chances of catching Pokémon, whether it is a berry that, if fed to the Pokémon, makes it easier to catch, or more advanced pokéballs that increase the catch rate of any Pokémon. These items are given for free in small amounts at the various “Pokéstops” that are placed around and can be found on the player’s map, or, you can purchase items in bulk with in-game currency that represents real money.

A very large aspect of the game is the “leveling” system. Those who are familiar with the original games for Nintendo devices would agree that any Pokémon game would incorporate some sort of “level” that directly correlates the strength of your Pokémon, but since Pokémon Go is centered around going out and catching new Pokémon, the user has a “level” that translates to how strong the Pokémon you find will be and how strong you can train the Pokémon you’ve already caught. Players can level up by catching new Pokémon, achieving in-game goals, battling in gyms, or by hatching Pokémon eggs through walking certain distances, and each level brings new bonuses that reward the player for their efforts.

When a player reaches level five, the ability to battle and train in Pokémon Gyms becomes available. But, before you can do that, you must pick a “team” to align yourself with. Niantic gives the players three teams to choose from, the first being Team Instinct, or Team Yellow, then Team Mystic, or Blue Team, and finally Team Valor, the Red Team. These teams battle it out to claim gyms and train in said gyms to further the control that a certain team has. That being said, the teams are usually very friendly to each other as actual fighting or violence towards other teams is not condoned and is utterly unnecessary, but teams will often have friendly rivalries and push each other competitively.

At this point, there is no way to trade Pokémon or battle with your friends without the use of gyms, but even then, the battle isn’t between two players, it is the challenging user operating their Pokémon and the opponent’s Pokémon that is operated by a computer. Niantic has made announcements to include trading as a core element in future updates and there have been murmurs of future development with more inclusive ways to battle and customize the game experience.

The whole point of the app is to take something that was developed inside and played or watched inside and move it outside. Many even argue that the app should be considered more of a social app than a game because of its ability to have people work together to capture a gym or travel together in search of Pokémon.

Even though the app was just released, there have been many reports of incident where individuals “Pokémon and driving” have caused accidents.

There have also been reports of theft, robbery and assault that have been directly related to the app. So, please be safe.

The game is the dream come true for many who loved Pokémon back when it started, but it is also a way to include the new generation of players. Niantic has said that more and new Pokémon are to be added and the game is seen to keep its popularity for quite some time.

Just remember, you gotta catch ‘em all!

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