On July 6, millions across the globe were able to finally realize their dreams of becoming a Pokémon Trainer with the launch of Pokémon Go, a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality game.
With an emphasis on old-school nostalgia combined with tech-centric, New Age flair, Pokémon Go quickly blasted off to the top of the iOS and Android app stores. According to SensorTower, the game was downloaded more than 10 million times within the first week of release, hitting over 15 million downloads in just seven days.
By July 31, the game had gained over 100 million downloads worldwide, with average daily users exceeding app-store powerhouses such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The point of the game is to “be the very best, like no one ever was,” a feat accomplished through collecting all 151 original Pokémon and registering them to the index-like Pokédex.
After starting the app on your smartphone, you will be able to create an avatar who will be situated on a GPS-style map of your general location. As you travel in real life, Pokémon will begin to appear on your screen.
By tapping the Pokémon, your phone’s camera will initiate, and you’ll be able to see the Pokémon as if it was situated in the real world, right in front of you. Aim at the Pokémon and “throw” a Poke ball to try to capture it.
Different Pokémon appear under different conditions. For example, water-types appear close to bodies of water, ghost-types appear mostly at night, and rodent- and bird-types appear in urban areas.
The map also features a number of predetermined Poké-Stops and Gyms, usually residing around local landmarks and points of interest. Visiting Poké-Stops nets players experience and items to use in the game, while Gyms can be captured and stocked with your Pokémon, inviting other players to challenge you for experience, in-game currency, and of course, bragging rights.
What makes Pokémon Go stand out is its reliance on getting players mobile and active within their communities. This isn’t a game to be played in your room all day, as you are required to get up, go out and move around.
Players are encouraged to visit local landmarks, such as the Bluffton Library, the Cornerstone Church, and the Burning of Bluffton plaque, all of which are either Poké-Stops or Gyms.
However, while the game constantly reminds players to “be aware of your surroundings,” not everyone has taken strides to remain safe while playing. Reports of car accidents, trespassing, robberies and even players falling off cliffs have put a dark spot on the game’s popularity.
With such a large and varied user base, such things are an unfortunate certainty, and while some players are caught up in PokéMania to an outrageous degree, millions of others are out meeting new friends, exploring new places and experiencing the fascinating world of Pokémon like never before.
Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.