It’s only been out for a little over a week, but you’ve probably already heard a lot about the mobile game Pokemon Go. There’s been both criticism and praise, and lots of people still just don’t understand what the game is or how it works. I’m going to do my best to help you make sense of this phenomenon and what all these people walking around looking at their phones are doing. Who knows, you might even find yourself hunting for Pokemon, too!
So what is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is a mobile game for iOS and Android that basically brings the fictional creatures Pokemon from the popular card games, video games and TV show into the real world, using your mobile phone’s camera and GPS. The game transforms parks and landmarks into “Pokestops” and “gyms”; the app then uses your phone’s camera to allow you to see and “catch” Pokemon everywhere you go. The game is made by Niantic and uses a lot of the same basic ideas of another game they made, Ingress. You can download Pokemon Go for free, but you can later buy currency called Poke Coins to purchase items if you choose.
Many people are confounded by how big Pokemon Go has gotten so quickly, but the Pokemon games have been around for 20 years. So that means that people who played Pokemon when they were younger could have kids now. Plus there are all the kids who like Pokemon and have mobile phones. Whatever the reason, Pokemon Go is everywhere, and I personally am having a blast with it.
So why are all these people suddenly crowding around parks, businesses and landmarks?
Above is a map in the game of Third Street in downtown Geneva. Each of those blue squares is a “Pokestop” that gives you items in the game. Get close enough to the location and you can access the items. The tall pillars are “gyms” that have Pokemon guarding them. You can fight the Pokemon to take control of the gym. I walked past one of the gyms in downtown Geneva, and there were at least a dozen people around battling. Here’s an article that goes into more detail about finding and catching Pokemon.
Businesses are seeing an increase in customers from all the foot traffic that Pokemon Go is generating. Some are even taking to social media to let people know about the Pokemon caught there or let customers know they are a Pokestop. Graham’s Chocolate boasted on Instagram about being a Pokestop, and Graham’s 318 has created a special “Pikacello” gelato. The DuPage Children’s Museum was showing off some of the catches that happened there. Morton Arboretum is on Facebook telling people to come check out their Pokestops but also encouraging them to make sure not to miss out on the amazing scenery away from their phones. The other night my family and I spent some time at Eaglebrook Park, which happens to be a Pokestop. There was another family there specifically because it was a Pokestop.
Pokemon Go is getting people out of their houses and getting them to explore new places. There are also “eggs” that you can get in the game that require walking a certain distance to “incubate” the eggs so you are rewarded for walking or biking. (You won’t get credit for riding in a car!)
What about all the negative stuff you’ve been hearing?
Well, one of the biggest warnings with this game is the need to practice common sense. There have been reports of people venturing into dangerous locations or onto private property to catch Pokemon. There have been criminals luring players to locations and then robbing them. There was an issue with the information the app was accessing on your Google accounts, though the developers have quickly fixed this with the most recent update. Here’s some advice about protecting your privacy when playing not only Pokemon Go but all apps.
I definitely encourage people to play this with their kids because it’s really fun, but if your children are playing alone, make sure they’re being smart. Pay attention to where they are walking, go out with friends, be aware of surroundings and be respectful of private and public property. Many of the Pokestops and gyms are churches and parks, so make sure that your kids are acting appropriately in these locations.
How do you win?
There is no real “winning” but you do continually work to level up your character and your Pokemon. The Pokemon you catch, Pokestops you visit, and gyms you battle in all give you experience that levels up your character.
There are three teams you can join and this matters when you are battling at a gym. Being on the same team as your friends allows you to all fight to take over gyms controlled by the opposite teams. Or if you are on a different team than your friends, you might find yourself in a constant battle for control.
Where are some of the best places to go?
You can play Pokemon Go anywhere, but part of the fun is encountering other players and getting items for visiting Pokestops. I’ve been to downtown Naperville, Aurora, Batavia and Geneva and all four have a ton of Pokestops and gyms. Here’s some specific places that I’ve found that might be of interest to Go West readers:
- Seven Gables Park in Wheaton – There are two Pokestops, but neither are accessible from the playground. One is the main sign on Naperville Road and the other is the entrance sign. The Wheaton Park District says on its Facebook page that there is a gym at the entrance to Cosley Zoo and quite a few Pokestops inside Lincoln Marsh Natural Area, both in Wheaton.
- DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville – There are several Pokestops in the parking lot and nearby.
- Messenger Public Library in North Aurora – The library sign is a Pokestop, and the church next to it is a gym.
- Island Park in North Aurora – All along the Fox River there are a bunch of Pokestops. Plus, Harner’s Bakery is a gym. This is definitely a nice area to walk around and eat donuts!
- Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva – I haven’t been here myself but I’ve heard reports that there are quite a few Pokestops like in the Japanese garden and bear cage, and that the villa is a gym.
- The Riverwalk in Batavia – Downtown Batavia was full of Pokemon Go players. The playground itself has a Pokestop, plus there are a ton of others if you walk along the Fox Rive, and there are quite a few gyms, too. You can even access a Pokestop while having ice cream at Batavia Creamery.
- The Riverwalk in Naperville, based on the number of players on Friday night hanging out in the the area, is a good place for Pokemon Go players.
- Blackberry Farm in Aurora – There are quite a few Pokestops here and a couple gyms.
Are you playing Pokemon with your kids? Are you having fun with it? Any Pokestops or gyms that Go West readers should know about? Let us know in the comments!