By now, most people have at least heard of Pokémon GO, the new game sweeping the globe. Although it only ‘officially’ launched in Canada on Sunday afternoon (and promptly crashed the server) our country has been playing it almost since the first launch in July 6. And if the kids haven’t yet tried it, it’s inevitable that at some point this summer, they will. That’s where these handy guidelines come in.
There are hundreds of articles written describing the partial virtual game, covering topics such as how to play, how to catch Pokémon, and where all the good stuff is located. This is not that kind of article, neither it is a tech piece. Instead, this tip sheet focuses on how to get the most out of what is still just a video game. We’ll share how to stay safe, keep active, and still spend quality time together.
A Very Brief Description
In Pokémon GO, your avatar travels over your actually surroundings—kind of like Google Maps superimposed with Pokémon. The mission is to ‘catch’ Pokémon when you are physically in range by swiping your screen to throw a Pokéball. Along the way you also collect eggs and equipment.
One key safety issue with Pokémon GO is the amount of time spent looking at a screen while moving. It’s a good idea to only check the screen occasionally and safely for bearings. Make sure to instil a ‘stop moving before you look at the screen’ policy with the group to avoid walking into obstacles, unsafe road crossing, or dropping devices. Bikes and autos are fine to use to get somewhere, as long as participants aren’t actually looking at the screen while trying to operate a vehicle or walking and running.
What is a PokéStop?
A PokéStop is a spot in your surroundings where the game player collects eggs and Pokéballs. It might be a library, public mural, or tourist attraction. You don’t necessarily need to enter a building to ‘arrive’ at a PokéStop. As you play, discuss as a team why that particular place was chosen as a PokéStop. What is neat about this place? What does it mean to your city or town?
In our house we have a firm rule about respecting each other’s property, space and possessions. The same should be true of playing Pokémon GO. Some Pokémon drift onto private property, although many are accessible from public sidewalks and boulevards. Encourage the players to try to catch all Pokémon from public spaces. Don’t give the game a bad name by trespassing. Asking permission is nice, but most people don’t want to answer the door five times a day because there’s a Pikachu lurking in their backyard. This is a good teaching moment about respect and privacy.
Some Pokémon have been cropping up in places where no Pokémon should go, like the Holocaust Museum and cemeteries. Use this as a moment to talk about the types of places that are appropriate for game play and those that deserve respect. A movie theatre lobby might be fine for some Pokémon catching—the quiet section of a library, maybe not.
Appreciate Your Surroundings
Use the excursions to go catch Pokémon and visit PokéStops and gyms as time to explore and appreciate your town, village, city or province. We don’t explore as much as we should, and one benefit of the game is that it is encouraging people to get out, walk and discover aspects of their surroundings that they never noticed before. That’s great for learning and civic pride.
Pokémon GO uses GPS and shows direction with an ever-present compass on the screen. In this way it is part geo-caching, part orienteering. Use the game to teach and talk about reading maps, directions, distance and navigation. Bonus: kids gain greater confidence in their ability to find places (their own possessions, maybe not so much).
One well-documented benefit of Pokémon GO is the fact that you have to get out and move to play the game. Beyond the goal of covering ground to find more Pokémon, there is also that added element that some objects, like eggs, require you to walk a certain distance to hatch them (and no, driving doesn’t count). Finally, a video game that gets them moving for sustained periods of time! Throw on a pedometer and watch the steps add up! Bonus: the family dog has never been happier.
There have been unfortunate stories of people using Pokémon GO to lure players to deserted places to rob them. Playing the game is a good way to reinforce basic safety rules, which include making sure to travel as a group, letting people know where you are going, asking permission before going anywhere, and staying in public places. Although the game’s tagline is ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ you absolutely don’t need to, especially if doing so compromises safety.
Freezes and Server Down
With so many people playing a game that is still in its infancy, there are inevitable freezes, glitches and servers going down. Teach patience, problem solving and research skills at those times. There are many sites that will provide information about what regions are experience specific speeds and problems. Some of these sites are crowd-sourced, so the discussion can be around how a large number of people contributing information on their site speed and status contribute to becoming a body of knowledge that many people can access.
Make it a Group Thing
It’s more fun to play as a group, so make a play date and travel as a pack. Have a Pokémon Party and get the neighbours out of their air-conditioned abodes. Strike up a conversation with a fellow Pokémon Player at a PokéStop and get a sense of community.