What Is Pokémon Go?

Here’s what you need to know about the hottest new app.

If you’ve seen people seemingly take pictures of nothing at all while you were out this weekend, you’ve probably already experienced the overnight phenomenon of Pokémon Go. The recently-released smartphone game mimics the objectives of the previously released Pokémon games—to catch all 151 of the universe’s creatures. But instead of using cards or video games, it integrates your smartphone camera, and the real and virtual worlds. You walk around, looking for Pokémon to appear on your screen, and catch them using digital “Pokéballs.” The game has captured a wide range of users—from elementary schoolers experiencing their first brush with the Japanese brand to nostalgic millennials who grew up with the Game Boy cartridges and binders full of yellow-rimmed cards. Here are four things you should know about the game (practically) everyone is talking about.

1

It’s one of the biggest and fastest growing apps ever released.

pokemon-go-logo
Photo by wikimedia.org

Since its release on Thursday, July 7, it has surpassed more users than Tinder, and it's on track to overtake Twitter. It has added $11B to Nintendo’s value, too.

2

It’s an active game—and a social one.

In order to move your avatar to Pokéstops (where you get more pokéballs and other items), you have to move. This real-world integration has been credited with getting video gamers to exercise, socialize, and explore more than usual. The game also brilliantly incorporates monuments like community murals, churches and libraries, and even the White House as Pokéstops. Users report finding interesting spots in their neighborhood where they would never have thought to look. And since other players are easy to spot, it’s common that strangers end up hanging out with each other.

3

It will affect your phone plan.

That's because, in order to play, you must use WiFi or mobile data. According to reports, it only uses about two to eight MB an hour, which is a whole lot less data than streaming Spotify, scrolling through Facebook, or checking your Snapchat stories. Though it probably won’t cause your family to blow through their data in a couple of days, the game does eat up your battery fast. Set limits on data usage and make sure your kids know that they shouldn’t risk the dangers of a dead phone just for a few more minutes of play.



4

It can be dangerous.

The game starts off with a warning to be aware of your surroundings and a lengthy risk waiver in order to play it. But several news stories have surfaced about misuse of the game. For example, in Missouri, there was an incident where armed robbers lured players to isolated areas and robbed them. There have also been reports of minor injuries from pedestrian accidents. Nintendo and the Pokémon Company are set to release the Pokémon Go Plus, which is a Bluetooth enabled wearable that will alert players with flashing LEDs and Vibrations to in-game action (like finding a Pokéstop or a wild Pokémon) without having to constantly look at the screen. The $34.99 device should help players still participate in the game, but with better attention to their surroundings. However, it’s already sold out and is commanding Hamilton Ticket-level upcharges on EBay. If your kids are playing, make sure you remind them to stay in well-lit, populated areas and not to talk to strangers. Better yet, make it a family activity and play together.