Castlegar residents may have noticed people walking around downtown, Millennium Park and Zuckerberg Island, staring fixedly at their smart phones and occasionally swiping at them wildly. These people may be playing Pokémon Go, a new interactive app available on iOS and Android.
The game officially launched in Canada on Sunday, but many Canadians figured out how to download the game before that and have already been leveling up. For those curious about how the game works — either because you or your children are interested in playing, or just because you want to know what all the fuss is about — here are some of the basics.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is an app that uses both GPS technology and your smartphone’s camera to allow you to find and catch Pokémon — monsters originally introduced in two Game Boy games in 1996 — in the real world. You can catch, power up and evolve your Pokémon and eventually use them to battle other Pokémon at a gym.
The game is designed to get players out in the world, visiting different points of interest. PokéStops are points of interest that allow players, or trainers, to collect items that will help them in the game. There are lots of PokéStops in Castlegar, many of them on the Castlegar Sculpturewalk route, though unfortunately they’re based on the sculptures from two years ago. That hasn’t stopped trainers from enjoying the current sculptures. Sam and Caleb, two Castlegar youth who’d been playing the game for about a week before it was released, said they’ve seen a lot of the sculptures and the game has been getting them moving.
“A lot more people are out walking around,” said Caleb. “It gets people active.”
The CPR Station Museum is also a PokéStop, as is the black rooster statue at 18 St. and Columbia Ave.
Gyms — where trainers can battle against other trainers’ Pokémon — are also located at points of interest. Castlegar has gyms located all over town, including Zuckerberg Island, Millennium Park, in front of Kootenay Market, Century 21, Saint David’s Church, and the Castlegar Public Library. Councillor Deb McIntosh, manager of the Castlegar Heritage Society, confirms that the game has drawn players to both Zuckerberg and the CPR Station Museum, and she’s excited that the game is bringing people out.
The game also encourages players to get out walking so that they can hatch eggs. Trainers can pick up eggs from PokéStops, but must then incubate them to get them to hatch into a Pokémon. Each egg specifies the distance the player has to cover before the egg will hatch: two, five or ten kilometers.
Where are people finding the Pokémon?
To play the game, your phone has to use data, but as long as you’re in a service area, you should theoretically be able to find Pokémon around. The game includes some features to help you locate nearby Pokémon, but at the time of writing this, there are some glitches in the game preventing those features from working properly, so we can’t share very many details.
How much does it cost to play the game?
Pokémon Go is free to download, but there are in-app purchases. Players spend real money to get PokéCoins, which can then be used to buy items. The PokéStops seem to drop all of those items, though some are more rare, so it isn’t necessary to make any purchases to progress in the game.
As mentioned, the game uses data, so if you’re not connected to wifi, you’ll want to watch your usage or risk an extra cost. A major complaint against the game is also that it drains a phone’s battery life very quickly. There is a power save option under settings that will save some power if the phone is placed upside down in your pocket.
Is it safe?
There have been a flood of reports of people injuring or even killing themselves while playing Pokémon Go, but the game isn’t necessarily dangerous, it just requires some common sense:
Don’t trespass while playing the game;
Don’t play the game while driving;
Do look both ways before crossing the street;
And do pay attention to your surroundings while playing.