Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Squee: Pokémon Go

The Sunday Squee is about things that make me happy and excited. From books to movies to television shows to podcasts, I'll highlight less commonly known things as a way to share what I love. If you want to join in the Sunday Squee, please link back to me, magnifying both of our joy.


Pokémon Go is the first pokémon (pocket monster) game I've ever played, though I've bumped elbows with it's knock-offs a few times, and I came to play it circuitously, through Niantic's previous (and still running) game Ingress. However, where Ingress encouraged territory taking and keeping, Pokémon Go has a fun solo play component to it which reinforces the exploration aspects of its cousin. First - the basics; you can sign up either through a gmail account or the Pokémon website - in either case I strongly suggest using a pseudonym or a throw-away email account as this is a GPS game which has different privacy concerns than a purely online game. The same goes for your official name in game, which will show up on gyms and on the pictures you take of your pokémon in the wild (I cropped my images to remove my pseydonym). Also, the names are unique, so having a pre-selected list of options makes a lot of sense.

Once the game starts you can customize your Trainer avatar. There are two basic body types and options for changing skin tone, hair color, and eye color from a limited palette as well as combine different aspects of ones outfit - all of them are the same style, though there are several color variations. If you're image conscious take some care at this point; Pokémon Go doesn't currently have a way to change either your avatar or your team (chosen at level 5). Once your style is set, Professor Willow introduces himself and you get the chance to catch your first pokémon - Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle - but you can get Pikachu if you physically move away from your starting location until those options disappear and he appears. I didn't do this, but I do now have my requisite Pikachu in hand, having caught him just a few nights ago. You can turn on the augmented reality via a switch on the catching screen, so often I will check to see if a cool picture is in the offing before catching my pokémon in the far easier virtual reality of my phone.


In addition to catching pokémon in the world around you, there are static spots in the world you can visit. The first are pokéstops, where you get in range and flip the center circle for free stuff. About every five minutes it resets, but there's increasing penalties is you squat on a single spot. You can also set off lure modules there, which will attract rarer and more powerful pokémon for everyone in the area. It's not uncommon to see several lures going in a popular area of larger metropolises, making walking routes between them both fun and exciting. Add on some incense so you're attracting pokémon to yourself as well and it's a veritable cornucopia of ball throwing goodness. The other landmark-based places are the Gyms. You can't even access them until you're level five, and once you do you also chose which of the three teams (Valor, Instinct, and Mystic) you want to belong to. My experience has been that the gyms turn over fairly regularly, so there isn't the camping experience of Ingress which turned me off, and while some people may feel proprietary about a given gym, there isn't the in game organization which also led to conflict in Ingress. At gyms you can train your pokémon if it's held by your team, or battle their pokémon if it's not, but there is no risk of a pokémon dying and items to wake up and heal your pokémon are available at various pokéstops.

Where you are matters a lot when it comes to determining what pokémon you'll catch and how, and a nod to the environment has been made. Water pokémon are more likely to be found near water, rats and pigeons more common in cities, and exploring widely will bring you a much wider range of pokémon options. This has its pluses and minutes, and I'll leave discussion to other people for the moment ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 ), but I love it. I love exploring areas, drawn by lines of Pokéstops. I love making lovely piles of pokémon, trading many of them to Professor Willow, and evolving common pokémon into their rarer forms (tip: use a lucky egg before doing a lot of evolving and leveling goes fast). The additional feature I'm looking forward to most is sending pokémon to my friends in other locations - I'm daydreaming of the time I can flood my friends with local common pokémon which are rare where they live. This game has encouraged me to go out and about in the world, wandering instead of sitting, and it's been a major bright spot in the past couple of weeks.If you try it, I hope you love it as much as I do!


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