‘Pokemon GO’ gets our generation outside, active

Lisa Herdman

Video games are making their way to the outdoors – and at an alarming rate.

With the release of “Pokemon GO” in the United States July 6 for Android and IOS systems, players can use their phones to “capture” wild Pokemon in augmented reality (viewing the environment around you through your phone’s camera and being able to see 3D Pokemon), evolve them and use them to battle in gyms.

Perks of this game include the amount of exercise it encourages its players and the meeting of groups in the community to play the game. To encounter wild Pokemon, a player must be within a 40 meter radius of it and toss pokeballs at it to capture it. Since playing the game, I have been logging anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day – triple what my steps were before the release of this game. This app is not “tricking” our generation into exercising as some media outlets have suggested. There is a big difference between a trick and powerful incentive. The app is simply offering achievable goals with increasingly satisfying rewards, such as hatching powerful Pokemon from eggs for walking through the park or your neighborhood with your friends.

The other great aspect, the community, has brought groups of over 100 people together at a time to set up spots to capture together. Players can set up lures to draw wild Pokemon to an area more frequently. Items can be used (found in game or purchased in the app store) to draw more creatures to a player, such as incense, a charm that can draw Pokemon to a player directly, and lures, charms that draw Pokemon to a Pokestop that all surrounding players can benefit from. Pokestops are locations where players can visit to collect free items every five minutes.

The game itself is very different from any other games released by The Pokemon Company. Paired with Niantic, the company has created its first augmented reality game that involves Pokemon. I was weary about the game mechanics and was at first annoyed that a video game had to be played outside of my own house. However, leaving my house to play with other people has been a great highlight of this experience.

I would enjoy more ways to level up Pokemon, or increase their combat power, within the game and see more items appear to use in battle. Currently, a player must collect enough candy, or the currency in the game to level creatures, to evolve and make the Pokemon stronger. Candy has to be obtained by catching the same Pokemon many times and could be more interesting if items could be used to help. The current items in the game are interesting and encourage players to help each other and collaborate, but more items could make the game even more interactive.

Players can choose a team once they reach level five, Mystic, Valor or Instinct, to take over gyms and game experience. The mechanics are a little sloppy – a player has to tap on the screen quickly to attack and there aren’t many different tactics. I’d love to see the old turn-based combat reintroduced and let players use different strategies.

Already there are reports saying that the next updates for “Pokemon GO” may include more features from the classic Pokemon games, such as finding berries, being able to challenge others in battles outside of gyms, trading items and Pokemon, shiny Pokemon, contests and online chat. With these new features, players would be encouraged to interact more than ever and could bring the game further out into the community. This game has been wonderful to play and I would recommend it to all ages. It is great to play in groups or alone.

Rating: 4/5 stars