What’s Pokémon Go And Why Is It Suddenly Viral?

Here’s all you need to know about the new augmented reality app and the world’s latest gaming addiction!

By now you might have already heard stories of people hunting down Pokemon at their work desks, in bathrooms, churches, hospitals, museums and pretty much everywhere you can think of.

There are stories about robbers luring in victims with the possibility of Pokémon. There’s also talk about a teenage girl stumbling across a dead body when on a Pokémon patrol. Pretty absurd, yes!

So what in the name of – sweet baby Pikachu – is going on?

Enter Pokémon Go.

The new smartphone game from Nintendo and Niantic Labs launched on July 6th that has the world chasing around mythical Pokémon characters on a quest to “catch ’em all”.

The new mobile game, free on both iOS and Android, lets you create an avatar that can catch, train, trade and battle Pokémon characters inside the game. It’s a “real world adventure”. That means it uses GPS and augmented reality (AR) to allow you to hunt and train Pokémon as you’re out and about in your neighborhood. Shortly after its release the game has taken social media by a hailstorm.

How does Pokémon Go work?

The game uses Google Maps technology to place your avatar on a virtual world that mirrors your real life surroundings. When you find a Pokémon, the game uses augmented reality to make it look like whatever Pokémon you’ve discovered is indeed standing right there in front of you.

Pokémon Go also has gyms – where you can fight gym leaders – and PokéStops based on real-world locations, which create hubs where players can meet. (You can buy, with real money, items to lure Pokémon to these stops; that’s how Niantic, the game’s developer, makes money.)

Check out this video to help you understand Pokémon Go better:

How do I ‘catch them all’, as it were?

As you go strolling around, Pokémon will automatically appear on the map. (If you see little flurries of leaves it means there might be a rarer Pokémon nearby – well worth a detour I’d say.) The bar in the bottom right screen shows Pokémon in the vicinity, with three “footprints” meaning it is further away and one meaning it’s probably right behind you.

Once you reach your huntees destination, tap on the Pokémon and it will appear in front of you, then you throw Pokéballs by swiping; the best time to hit the Pokémon is when the colored circle around it has shrunk.

Why is the Pokémon Go taking off now?

Well, it just came out, it’s different and fun. It’s getting people to go about, socialize and have a new addiction to discuss. Especially for those who played Pokémon in the ’90s, the game taps into nostalgia of the bygone days. Specifically, Pokémon Go realizes a vision Pokémon fans have had since the series came out: What if Pokémon were real, and inhabited our world?

What does this mean for the future?

Pokémon Go is perhaps the biggest augmented reality game to date. Although others (like Ingress and Life Is Crime) tried before, none have been as successful as Pokémon Go.

Making use of augmented reality, Pokémon Go leverages on technology that will surely improve exponentially in the coming years and that is guaranteed to radically transform the way we interact with the world around us. So in reality, Pokémon Go is a harbinger of things to come. It’s all very exciting!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just spotted a mischievous lil’ Rattata lurking behind my computer…

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