By Focus on the Family Singapore
22 August, 2016

In any other time, if your kid brother, grandmother or slightly weird Uncle had said, "I'm going down the street to capture imaginary creatures," you would have immediately called a doctor. But today, in this new age of augmented reality games, well, you might just join in.

The mobile game Pokémon Go is quite literally sweeping the world by storm. And whether the game ultimately has a long-term footprint or fizzles out, this new Pokémon-in-your-backyard amusement is certainly grabbing people's attention today.


The Pokémon phenomena first appeared back in 1998. The game was reportedly inspired by creator Satoshi Tajiri's love for insect-collecting as a boy. His game concept centred on a fantasy video game world full of magical creatures (instead of crickets and beetles) that players would collect, then "train and evolve," before sending them off to battle against other trainers' charges.

After twenty years of games (as well as trading cards, TV shows and movies), that basic concept is still the focus in Pokémon Go: Players collect Pokémon, train them, evolve them, and eventually use those powered-up creatures to take over Pokémon Gyms from other players. The difference this time around is that it's all done in the real world. Well, sort-of.

You see, your smartphone and its camera become the "magical" eyepiece, so to speak, that help you spot the creatures out and about in your neighbourhood. The app "skins" Google Maps with a virtual, treasure-hunting overlay. And as you walk down the street, the screen displays playgrounds, landmarks, businesses and parks (among other things) that have been assigned as PokéStops—places where you can acquire Poké Balls (little virtual devices used to capture the wandering creatures), as well as other healing and power-up prizes.


PokéStops are also great places to find Pokémon. The creatures can actually show up anywhere, from your bedroom closet to local landmarks, but PokéStops are sure-fire gathering grounds. Other trainers with phones in hand will often toss down a virtual "lure" at those stops that will cause Pokémon to start popping up more frequently over the next 30 minutes. And then it's just a matter of spotting them through your phone and tossing a Poké Ball at them with a finger stroke on your touchscreen.
Then, repeat that process several hundred times.

There are scores and scores of Pokémon to be found. And you'll need to find multiples of any given creature to make the first one you capture stronger. Every one you collect comes with accompanying stuff called "Stardust" and "Candy," and large quantities of those virtual substances are required for an upgrade. Only after many hours of collecting and traveling can you evolve your, say, Pidgey into a more powerful Pidgeotto.

But why go to all that trouble, you ask?

Well, besides the collecting challenge, you'll want to power-up and evolve your magical "Pocket Monsters" (which is what Pokémon is short for) in order for them to have enough "Combat Points" to stand even the slightest chance at competing against other trainers' Pokémon during battles. When you take your pumped-up Pokémon to a virtual Gym (denoted on your phone's map), you'll find that someone has already claimed it with a powerful creature or creatures of their own. They don't even need to be there to join the battle, their Pokémon fights all on its own as you tap-tap-tap the screen in an effort to defeat it and replace it with yours.

Then, repeat that process over and over, too.


A lot of people have rightly praised Pokémon Go for its meet-folks-in-the-park social interactivity and its ability to push young gamers outside to play. And those are cool elements of the game—especially if parents are deepening relationships by playing with their kids. But Pokémon Go is also a massive time-gobbler for anyone who really wants to be competitive at the Pokémon Gyms. There's no finesse in the battle side of things. You either have the biggest, baddest, pumped-up Pokémon around or you get virtually beaten to a pulp (though not in a graphic way).

And if you don't want to spend hours trying to maximize your Pokémon’s virtual muscles, you'll can always spend actual cash. At the app's built-in shop, players can use real-world money to buy everything from better Poké Balls to exotic Poké Eggs to special experience-boosts that help young gamers cut back on the time requirements. And that could potentially be an expensive proposition if not overseen by a level-headed adult.

In addition, as the nature of the game requires one’s undivided attention to the in-game events, it is crucial that players take heed against being too caught up in it such that they become unaware of their surroundings and place themselves in dangerous situations.

So, it seems only wise to suggest that those planning to jump on this new "gotta catch 'em all" bandwagon take a little time to consider their steps, both figuratively … and in reality. If you need more help navigating the obscure world of Pokémon Go, download our Pokémon Go Guide for Parents that highlights discerning discussion points to help you decide what is best for your kids.


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