In the streets, people are wandering around, going to strange places in search of unusual creatures. In parks, they gather around specific landmarks before sitting down and looking intently at the floor.
They are all looking for Pokémon. And they are all doing so because of Pokémon Go – a new game that is quickly becoming more popular even than Twitter.
What is Pokemon?
Pokémon began life in the late 90s as a game for the Game Boy. It is all built around a universe where humans capture and train creatures that inhabit the natural world, and then use those monsters to do their bidding.
What is GO?
Pokemon Go is the newest incarnation of the Pokémon games, and the first to come officially to iOS and Android. It’s also the first of the games to take place at least partly in the real world – and the first game to make that sort of augmented reality gaming go mainstream.
It encourages people to walk around until they run into a Pokémon, or other important locations that can provide supplies. When they do that, they can choose to capture the animals and store them in their app – all using an augmented reality layer that’s stuck on top of the real world using a phone’s camera – which help players move up through the game’s levels.
What’s all this about armed robberies and dead bodies?
Pokemon Go doesn’t really have much to do with any of the crimes it’s being connected with yet – beyond being a game that makes people go outside.
There have already been reports of potential crimes being found using the game, including a teen that stumbled across a dead body while out searching for Pokemon. And there have been reports of crimes being plotted using it too: this week police warned that robbers were using the game’s “lures” to encourage people to turn up to places on their own and then rob them.
The game itself doesn’t actually encourage any criminality. But it has been criticised for having a relatively lax approach to laws and for potentially leading people into dangerous situations.
Does that mean you have to actually go outside to play?
You don’t have to – you can use real life money to buy special lures that bring Pokémon to you. But that will be expensive and ignores the point of the game, which is helping people get out of the house as well as meeting other players while you’re at it.
Is it free?
Yes. Sort of. The game can be downloaded completely free, and will never – at least for now – make you pay to play. But it does have a system of in-app purchases, which means that you can pay to get things that you’d normally have to walk around or wait for.
Can I play it in the UK?
Yes. But not officially and not without risk.
Do you battle?
At the moment, the only battles that take place happen at gyms – and that’s the only form of multiplayer game that there is.
At gyms, you can take on other players using your and their Pokemon, to fight for ownership.
But developers have said that further multiplayer modes are on the way. That will presumably include a mechanism for trading, which was a central part of previous Pokemon games.
What is CP and HP?
They’re important measures that decide how powerful and useful your Pokemon are. CP stands for combat points, and shows how good at fighting they are; HP stands for health points and tells you what kind of shape they’re in.
You’ll learn the figures for each of the Pokémon in your control. And use them later on when you fight it out.
What is egg incubation?
Some of the Pokemon don’t actually come out until you’ve incubated their eggs. That all depends on walking around – and your phone will count how much you do – until the creatures pop out.
Can you cheat by going on a train or a bus?
The app appears to know if you’re driving around in an attempt to incubate your eggs, and doesn’t count it.
But there are other advantages to being on the move. Being on a bus lets you scan around for places with Pokemon, and also means that you can grab supplies from Pokestops while you’re on your journey.
What’s candy and stardust?
When you catch a Pokémon, you’ll pick up either of those two things – the commodities of the world that need to be found and can’t be traded or bought. Candy is specific to each Pokémon, and you can get it by finding news ones; whereas stardust is universal and can be used to raise a Pokémon’s CP.
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