A Quick Explanation of Pokémon Go, the Reason Your Local Park Is So Crowded

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This week, a new app is destroying lives around the globe for myriad reasons. That’s right, Pokémon Go is here.

As you can tell from the name, Pokémon Go is a Pokémon game — the series where you capture cute fantastical creatures and force them to perform violence for your amusement — but it’s not like any of the one’s released for Nintendo systems. It’s a smartphone app for Android and iOS.

What is Pokémon Go, and how does it work?

Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality iPhone game, meaning it mixes real-world locations with, well, Pokémon. The object of the game, as in most Pokémon games, is to catch wild monsters, and then fight your monsters against other monsters at “gyms.”

What makes Pokémon Go so cool (“cool”) is that the app tracks your physical location via GPS, and then populates your surrounding environment with Pokémon. You hold up your phone, and a small cartoon monster will appear onscreen, standing on the sidewalk or lawn or monument in front of you (that’s the “augmented reality” part).

But this means that in order to move around in the game, you have to move around in the real world. Some gamers are having trouble processing this.

There’s more to the game than catching Pokémon, of course. Some real-world locations (statues, fountains, churches, murals, murder houses) are “Pokéstops” where players can obtain items. Other locations are “gyms,” of which players, who eventually join one of three teams, can take control. It’s like a more complex version of king of the hill.

Sounds neat. Is the game any good?

This is a complicated question. Objectively, the game is very bad. For the first several days, server problems made it almost impossible to play. It’s still extremely buggy and janky, and needs to be restarted frequently. The mechanics are odd and not necessarily “fun.”

But it’s very difficult to say that a game as immediately and wildly successful as Pokémon Go — a game that’s managed to get thousands of gamers out of their houses and into parks — is bad. In fact, despite its own best efforts to be terrible, the game can be extremely fun!

And that’s the thing: People are very into it, which can be a problem for a game that forces you to interact with the real world. Already, a police station in Australia has been forced to caution players against wandering into the station for the game’s sake, and is also warning people to look up from their phone before crossing the street. Other players have flocked to churches, or had their jobs threatened for playing too much. Some locations have been frustrated by the influx of traffic. One player allegedly found a dead body while stumbling around hunting creatures.

What’s the catch?

The game is free to play, so you know there’re microtransactions all over it. You need items like Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and to get those items, you need gold. There are ways to get gold for free, or you can fork over some cash.

This is a meme, right?

Oh yeah. Pokémon Go has already generated tons of social media content.

Because this is a fandom thing, I have to ask: are people shipping anyone in Pokémon Go?

Yes, players are horned up for Professor Willow, who teaches you how to play the game.

There you have it. That’s Pokémon Go, a broken game that’s creating a lot of memes and making users horny.

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What Is Pokémon Go?