Pokémon Go went live on the Internet yesterday, and if you haven’t heard about it yet, my guess is that you will very soon, especially if you have 8-13 year old children.

Before we start, take a look at the official video for Pokémon Go here, so you can get a better idea of what is going on.

Pretty neat, right?

The first thing you should understand is that Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game.  What that means is the app uses the GPS and camera on your phone or tablet to track where you are in the real world, and then overlap Pokémon onto your screen.  It will look like the Pokémon on standing on the sidewalk, or hiding in the bushes.  In fact, my friend Jeremy found a Pokémon hiding at the doctors office today!

doctors office

Still interested?  Ok, let’s continue.

Getting Started

First thing you will need to do is install the Pokémon Go app on your phone.  You can grab it at either the Apple iTunes Store for your iPhone or iPad, or at the Google Play Store for Android phones or tablets.

Once the software is downloaded, it will ask you to sign in.  You can either sign in using your Pokemon Club account or your Google or Apple login.  If you don’t have any of these, I recommend signing up for a Pokémon Club account.  Pokémon Club is a great website that has tons of kid-safe activities, and there is even an tutorial that will teach both you and your child how to play the Pokémon Trading Card Game with awesome step-by-step video tutorials.

NOTE

At the time of this writing, the Pokemon Club sign-up servers are being overwhelmed by people wanting to play Pokémon Go.  It might take them a few days to keep up with the enormous amount of traffic they are getting!

Ok, now that we’re signed in, a tutorial will take over and let you customize your Trainer – that’s what players are called in the Pokémon universe.  This is all cosmetic, so take a look at the options and just have fun.

Next, you’ll need to give your Trainer a name.  I recommend NOT using a real name here for safety reasons.  Just pick a fun nickname – anything you want, but only letters and numbers will work.

Capturing Your First Pokémon

Next, the tutorial will show you a Pokémon nearby. For me it was right in the living room – how cool!  The starting Pokémon are Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle, the classic Gen 1 starters.

squirtle

To catch a Pokémon, you have to “throw” the red & white Pokeball at the Pokémon.  You do this by flicking your finger, which will launch the ball at the Pokémon and hit him with it.   The angle and force of your flick will affect how the ball flies.  This flicking is definitely going to be a skill that needs to be mastered.  With better aim, you can catch the Pokémon, and even earn “Nice”, “Great” and “Excellent” throws, all of which will score bonus experience points (XP) and help your Trainer reach higher levels.

My first Pokémon was Charmander.  I hit him with an excellent throw, and he was added to my Pokedex.

Vocab Lesson

Pokedex: the index of Pokémon you’ve captured.

 

charmander

You will notice some general traits about your Pokémon here.  Its type, Hit Points (HP), Combat Power (CP) and moves are all listed.  All Pokémon start off with full HP at capture, but HP can go down after a fight!  Also, you will notice that not all Pokémon have the same Combat Power (CP). I caught multiple of the same type of Bellsprout, and it appears that if they are outlined with a green circle, they are the basic Pokémon, while yellow are uncommon ( and more powerful) and red are rare and the most powerful type!

Heading Outside

Now that you have your basic Pokémon, the game encourages you to go outside and walk around.  You will get a map of your area, with streets and buildings marked and your Trainer will show as moving on the map as you walk around.  This is the point at where you need to make sure you set some ground rules with your children to be safe and only go adventuring with a parent or guardian.  I love the fact that Pokémon Go will entice your children to go outside and adventuring to new spots around Bloomington-Normal, but let’s just make sure everyone is safe while doing it.

ISU

This is a screenshot, again from Jeremy, of ISU’s quad.  If you know what to look for, you can tell that this is looking east towards uptown Normal!

In the picture you will see some areas of interest marked with the blue cubes.  If you walk (or bike) to these cubes on the map, they will transform into markers you can interact with.  These are called PokeStops.  So far I have found PokeStops at the old Bloomington Junior High, a My Little Library location, Lincoln historical markers in downtown, the McLean County Museum of History, and many more places.  In fact, downtown Bloomington is a hotbed of PokeStops with all of this historical markers for old buildings all over!  You can even stop in your favorite Friendly Local Game Store (Red Raccoon Games) to buy Pokémon cards or get information about our Pokémon League while your family explores downtown.

Parental Tip

Please note that not all of the PokeStops are kid friendly. For instance, there are at least 3-4 bars in downtown Bloomington that have PokeStops on them.  But, these can be activated safely from the sidewalk.

To activate a PokeStop, simply flick it sideways with your finger.  You will be rewarded with various items to use in your adventure.  More Pokeballs for capturing Pokémon are the most common item, but I also found several eggs. (more on eggs later).

Catching More Pokémon

As you are walking around outside, you will see a green rustling of grass.  Head towards it, and you might see a Pokémon appear.  Try to catch them!

The Pokémon’s CP level, the type of Poké Ball you used, your throwing technique, and other factors come into play when determining whether the Pokémon can be successfully caught.

Other Pokémon will simply run away so be sure to be quick.

Various habitats will determine what Pokémon is found. For example, water Pokémon will be found near bodies of water and beaches. Use the Nearby feature on the bottom of the screen to see which Pokémon are around.

The item Incense will draw Pokémon toward your for 30 minutes, so be sure to use them when you are having trouble finding Pokémon in the wild.

Eggs

When gathering items at PokéStops, you may find Eggs that will eventually hatch into Pokémon. To hatch these Eggs, you’ll need to walk around a certain distance.

The farther you have to walk, the rarer the Pokémon you’ll find inside when it finally hatches.  You’ll need Incubators to hatch Eggs. There is one provided for you so only one Egg can be hatched at a time unless you purchase another one.

Leveling Up / Evolution

If you want to level up your Pokémon, then you’ll have to use the Stardust gained from capturing Pokémon to do so.  Simply click on the Pokémon in your PokeDex, and click on the green level up button at the bottom of the screen.

Evolving Pokémon takes an extra step that involves the Transfer function, the Professor, along with Pokémon-specific candies.

Battling / Gyms

You will also notice on the map a couple of taller, big yellow markers.  These are Gyms.

After your trainer reaches Level 5 you can join a team (either Red, Blue or Yellow) and start to battle Gyms.

Once you join a team, you can assign Pokémon you’ve caught to an open Gym or to a Gym where a team member has placed one of his or her Pokémon. Like PokéStops, Gyms can be found at real locations in the world.  So far, I have explored Gyms at Wesley United Methodist Church, the mural across the street from Elroys Sports Bar, and one located at Herb Eaton’s “Corn on the Curb” next to the Eaton Gallery in downtown Bloomington.

Only one Pokémon per player will be set at a particular Gym.

If you want to tackle another team’s Gym, you’ll want to check out its stats. Prestige determines how difficult a Gym will be to take over. Training Pokémon at your Gym will increase its Prestige, while losing battles to other teams’ Pokémon will lower it.

Training your Pokémon is simple, just visit a Gym that’s already controlled by your team. Once there, you can train by battling against your own team’s Pokémon. Defeat all of them and your Gym’s Prestige will go up, making it more difficult to be defeated by another team.

If the Gym’s Prestige is reduced to zero, the defending team loses control of the Gym, and you or another player can then take control of it by assigning a Pokémon to protect it.

Gyms are a collaborative effort in Pokémon Go so be sure to check back to your team’s Gyms once in awhile and be sure to train your own Pokémon.

Micro-Transactions

I just wanted to throw a note in here that you can do virtually everything in Pokémon Go for free, with just a bit of walking and some time.  Each time you catch a Pokémon, you will earn a few PokeDollars that can be spend on various upgrades – some for your Pokémon and some for your Trainer.  If you want to speed up the process the game will let you (or your kids if you aren’t watching!) spend real money for Pokedollars.

The More You Know!

Real purchases can be made in the app and add up fast. Make sure you are paying attention to your children’s habits, so money isn’t spent without you knowing.