In the days since its release in the United States last Thursday, the virtual reality app Pokémon Go has effectively taken over everything. I was very late to join, downloading the app three full days after the release and after being hounded by almost every single person on my church retreat over the weekend. They were all pros by this point. I admit, I was incredibly skeptical at first, mostly because I believed my 17-year-old self far too old or cool to be associated with anything Pokémon-related, but apparently not! It’s for everyone: parents, kids, grandparents and even SB interns like me! Also, unlike most video games, it forces you to move around and explore where you are rather than staying cooped up in your basement in front of a TV or computer screen. If you want to get in on the Pokémon action while it’s hot, I’ve broken it down for you so you can get started faster than your 12-year-old can “catch ’em all!” (If that sounds confusing, that is the Pokémon tagline)
What is Pokémon Go? (aka a Beginners Guide to Pokémon Go)
When you download the game, you are asked to create an account with either your email or the game’s server, and then you are prompted to create an animated character. Then your phone and the app connect, using your GPS location and Google Maps to track your location and what landmarks you’re near. And then the fun begins, the app letting you know at the bottom of the screen what creatures are nearby.
Certain locations are “Poké Stops,” where you can spin a coin and get special items. Examples of these stops are the Richland Greenway and Centennial Park.
Whenever a Pokémon comes near, your phone vibrates and the little character appears on the screen. Clicking on the creature will let the app connect to your camera, so it’s as if the creature exists in this world too.
You walk around and collect as many Pokémon as you can, evolve them, join one of three teams and then fight other Pokémon in “Gyms.” These gyms are usually churches, but sometimes are actual sporting arenas or other large facilities — a friend mentioned that McKay Used Books was a Gym.
Are there any security risks to Pokémon Go?
When signing into the app at the very beginning and creating an account, many people chose the most convenient option: using their Google account. Normally, using your email allows the company to gather a small bit of information such as a player’s email and user ID. However, the app wrongly requested full access to many accounts, allowing the company to read and potentially modify anything in or connected to the account. Niantic, the company who created the game, issued a statement on Monday apologizing for the error and saying that they were working on fixing the amount of access that the game requested. This is no longer an issue, so if you want to get in on the action but were concerned about privacy, that’s no longer an issue.
Another potential issue was that people were playing alone and being lured into secluded locations in order to reach Poké Stops, where armed robbers or ill-intentioned people were waiting for them. This happened in Missouri early Sunday morning, around 2 a.m. I think that this shouldn’t be a problem for most people who have a bit of common sense, but it cements in my mind what my mom has always told me: “Nothing good happens after midnight.” No matter what, if you decide to go out and play the game at any time, bring some friends, your dog, stay in your car, or just go to a highly populated location. At this point, many of them will be playing too. Who knows? You might make some new friends.
What has this game done so far?
Pokémon Go has had incredible success since its release. The game now has more users than Tinder and is on a course to outshine Twitter user numbers as well. There are articles coming out about users who walked into the backyards of strangers because something was there that they just had to catch and other crazy stories. A lot the articles out there are spoofs, but they’re funny nonetheless — like this one titled “Area Woman Playing Pokemon Game Discovers She Has Joined Civil Rights March.” That’s just plain funny. On a more serious note, people are attesting that the app is helping them with depression, social anxieties and other legitimate mental illnesses by encouraging them to go outside, take walks and interact with others.
The interaction might be through a computer screen most of the time, but people all over the city and country — and world for that matter — are out and about playing the game, so people are bound to bump into others who are playing as well. Whether or not it actually helps mental illness I can’t say … mostly because this game has been out less than a week .. and that large fact that I am not a psychologist. But businesses have been using the app for their benefit, having employees add “lure modules” to Poké Stops around their location in order to lure players to the stops, therefore luring in potential customers. That’s good business!
Whether you’re a seasoned Pokémon master or a mere beginner, it matters not. Just download the app, set up your account, and get out and explore what creatures have begun to call Nashville their home. Happy hunting!
Pokémon Go not your thing? Download the SB App, and you can hunt down the best of local shopping, dining and events. Yep, it’s free, too.