July 15th, 2016 | Updated on February 21st, 2024
Pokemon Go is an inescapable force of nature. Building on the giant video game franchise created in the ’90s by a Japanese insect collector and game developer, Pokemon Go has become an instrument to take advantage of our nation’s ADD nature, our reliance on smartphones, the warm fuzziness of nostalgia, and our human thirst for escapism.
It’s not even that great or stunning of a game.
But it’s one nearly everyone you know is playing right now. And, well, you may have some questions about it. That’s understandable. Here are some answers.
1. What Is Pokemon Go?
To fully understand Pokémon Go, you have to go back to the canonical beginnings of Pokémon. Around 1990, a video game designer named Satoshi Tajiri began hammering out the concept of Pokémon, which combined his childhood hobby of insect collecting with his love for video games.
The word Pokémon itself is the Americanized/Westernized contraction of “pocket monsters” — which, yes, can sound sort of inappropriate — and the original first-person game centered on a young trainer capturing 151 different types of Pokémon, ranging from ones that vaguely resemble turtles (Squirtle) to humanoid ones (Jynx) to the most recognizable Pokémon in the world, Pikachu.
The eponymous cartoon TV series, which debuted in 1997 in Japan and 1998 in the US, added to the Pokémon lore. It added in characters like trainer Ash Ketchum; the villains Team Rocket (Jessie, James, and Meowth); and allies like Misty and Brock. It also gave Pokémon live-action traits (for example, all Pokémon could only say their own name).
2. Am I The Only Person Not Playing Pokemon Go?
No. According to expert estimates on Monday, Pokémon Go has been downloaded around 7.5 million times.
For context, in 2013 the US Census Bureau estimated that there were 242,470,820 adults in the United States, and according to a 2016 Pew report, 72 percent of adults have smartphones. That means roughly 174,579,000 adults have smartphones they could use to play Pokémon Go; 7.5 million is a fraction of that.
Pokémon Go users are also expected to surpass the number of Twitter users if the game continues its current growth trajectory:
And if you’re of a certain age, it can seem like literally everyone you know is playing. This chart helps explain why:
The initial Pokémon game released 20 years ago was extremely popular among tweens and kids at the time, meaning that a lot of today’s adults probably played that first game. Those adults — millennials! — are probably the ones you hear talking about their glut of shitty Zubats or gloating about their cute-ass Horseys.
And as my colleague Alvin Chang has pointed out, lots of people are spending a hell of a lot of time playing Pokémon Go:
3. If Pokemon Go Has Been Downloaded More Than Tinder, Does That Mean Pokemon Go Is Better Than Sex?
I’d wager it depends on the Pokémon you’re obtaining and sex you might be missing out on.
Tinder has become shorthand for casual sex, and one of the smirky, implicit suggestions when comparing Pokémon Go downloads and Tinder downloads is that it’s become more popular than a sex app.
Because the internet is a weird beast, and because Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that relies on smartphone cameras, some people have been quick to tart up Pokémon. Yes, there are people out there who are taking nudes with the help of the game’s camera setting. Sort of like a Snapchat filter, Pokémon Go uses your camera and imposes images of Pokemon in the setting around you.
4. Is the game any good?
Pokémon Go is fun, but I don’t think it’s very good. Your mileage may vary, but a lot of the appeal and gameplay of Pokémon Go is determined by your geographical location. If you walk past a body of water, you’re supposed to find water Pokémon. If you go to a forest or Central Park, you’re supposed to find grass or bug types.
The parts of New York City where I live and walk must be full of trash, home to the skittering Morlocks of the Pokémon world, because I’ve collected a treasure trove of C-list Pokémon. Here is a sampling of my roster:
And even if the game’s interface and action might not that be great, there’s an addictive, enjoyable element knowing that a rare, powerful Pokémon could just be a block away.
5. Is Pokémon Go Dangerous?
Please don’t play Pokémon Go while driving.
Pokémon Go is a lot like texting. Its augmented reality setting that uses your smartphone camera is distracting; even though you’re theoretically paying close attention to your surroundings, you’re doing so through a camera lens with the aim of spotting and catching Pokémon all around you. Crossing the street into traffic or walking into the ocean are both distinct possibilities with this game. Getting lost is a risk too.
Even if you believe Niantic isn’t malicious and has no plans to do anything sketchy with your personal info (one of its main investors is Google, which probably has a lot of your information anyway), some people are justifiably concerned that a lot of players’ personal info could be compromised in the event that Niantic ever gets hacked.
6. Why Are Pokemon Go Servers Always Crashing Or Down?
To put it bluntly, a fuckton of people have downloaded the game. It’s a phenomenon. There was a thirst for a Pokémon game that wildly exceeded expectations, probably even more than Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go, anticipated.
When too many people access a server at the same time, the server crashes. But if you’re Niantic, you probably don’t want to spend too much money on servers that might end up being unnecessary. Even though millions of people have downloaded Pokémon Go, many of those people will walk away from the game. Niantic doesn’t want to buy servers for those people. It’s in the best interests of the company to expand its server count slowly and methodically, even if it means dealing with server crashes in the short term.
7. How much data and battery life will I use while playing Pokemon Go?
You will use data, so if you don’t have an unlimited data plan for your phone, be careful. Think about it: Pokémon Go requires your phone to be constantly checking and transmitting your location via GPS. And the very nature of the game — namely, the impetus to get outdoors and keep moving — means that more often than not, you’ll be using a cellular connection rather than a wifi connection.
8. What’s This I’ve Heard About Pokemon Appearing At The Holocaust Museum And Ground Zero?
According to the Washington Post, there are people using the game at the Holocaust Museum. There are also reports of people using the app at the 9/11 Memorial. Many people are understandably upset that people are flicking their phones and playingPokémon in a solemn place.
This problem is the fault of both the developer of Pokémon Go and its players.
Basically, the game features landmarks called PokéStops, where you can collect various items that will help you in your Pokémon-catching quest. And the Holocaust Museum and Ground Zero memorial are PokéStops.
Even if the Holocaust Museum gets Niantic to remove its PokéStop status, that won’t purge Pokémon from appearing there. Pokémon appear when the app is active. Eliminating Pokémon from the museum would require users to stop opening the app at the museum.
Of course, if you’re playing Pokémon Go at the Holocaust Museum or at the 9/11 memorial, well, that is a whole different problem.
9. Is It Possible To Cheat In Pokemon Go?
First, though it’s not technically cheating, the app offers in-game purchases that allow you to spend real money on items like lures and incense that will help you catch more Pokémon more often. These purchases can enhance your gaming experience and increase your chances of procuring a desired Pokémon, giving you an advantage over people who are just playing the game for free.
And then there are actual cheating hacks, like installing programs that alter or spoof your GPS settings, in order to potentially catch Pokémon in places you might not have access to. Doing this would allow you to, say, nab a Pokémon off the coast of Maine even if you live in Kansas. Altering your GPS settings would also let you “tell” your phone that you’ve walked a certain distance, and one of the features of the game (hatching eggs to give you Pokémon) is based on how far you travel.
But even if you just want that Articuno so very bad, don’t cheat. Cheaters have terrible reputations as game ruiners.
Bonus question: which Pokémon is the best?
— UnofficialWinchester (@MagicalBaboon) July 9, 2016
Jigglypuff, 100 percent. Look me in the eye and tell me there is anything more adorable than this….