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What's the Deal With "Pokémon Go"? A Mom's Review on the Good and Bad

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What the Heck Is Pokemon Go?

Pokémon Go debuted on July 6, 2016, but the Pokémon franchise has been around for years. The franchise began 20 years ago (1996). Since that time, Pokémon has been loved, and the card game based on the animation has been played in living rooms and game halls all over the globe.

My 12-year-old daughter has been in love with Pokémon cards for about two years. She acquired a vast collection at a garage sale over a year ago and had fallen deeper in love with the characters and trainers since then. With generations of Pokémon lovers around the world, it's no surprise that Pokémon Go became an overnight sensation.

However, not everyone loves the craze. The media wants to warn everyone about the dangers of the game, haters want to make fun of the phenomenon with amusing memes on social media, and people who love the game can't help but brag about their latest conquests.

When I first heard about the game, it was a negative news report about people being lured to a particular location and robbed. I was terrified. I immediately told my daughter she wasn't allowed to download it. Later I reconsidered and did my research. It's true there is some substance to the media's claims of danger, but there is lots of fun involved in the game too. After carefully going over all of my concerns with my daughter, I allowed her to download it. Now my husband and I play it with her. Read on to learn more about the Pokémon Go craze, what it's all about, and how to stay safe while playing.

Pokémon Go Facts

  • Location-based reality game
  • Free to download and play
  • Developed by Niantic
  • Published by The Pokemon Company
  • Released in the USA on July 6, 2016
  • Available on IOS and Android platforms
  • Built on Niantic's Real World Gaming Platform

How to Play Pokémon Go?

Getting started with Pokémon Go is easy. Simply download it from the iTunes store or Google Play. The game is only available on IOS and Android platforms.

After the game is installed and the player is registered, it is time to get up, get outside, and start exploring.

It's easy to tell when Pokémon creatures are nearby because the smartphone will vibrate. When you spot a Pokémon on your screen, take aim with a Poke Ball, and throw the ball.
HINT: My daughter taught me you could reclaim a Poké Ball if you miss it by just tapping the ball before it disappears.


Where Can Pokémon Go be Played?

The great thing about Pokémon Go is it can be played anywhere in the real world. Walk laps around your block or hop in the car with your kids and make it an adventure.

Some creatures will only appear near water like the ocean or lake. What this means is you should always have your phone nearby when traveling or walking through new areas or while on vacation. There at 100 Pokémon creatures in the Pokédex, so players will have to be alert to get them all.

What Are Poke Stops and Gyms?

If you've seen a ton of people staring at their phones in front of the library or post office, you're probably curious as to what they are doing. Chances are they're searching for Poké Balls, Potions, or possibly eggs at a Poké Stop.

Poké Stops are located all over the world, and many can even be found close together. They can give players the needed items to play the game. So, where do you find a Poké Stop?

Poké Stops are indicated on the game map. It's obvious to tell where a Poké Stop is located, and you don't have to guess. If you hover over the icon on the map, you will see a picture of the location of the stop.

To access a Poké Stop, you have to be within a particular distance to a pre-determined monument, public art installation, or historical marker. Poké Gyms are accessible in the same manner but have a different purpose.

Got Catch 'Em All!

If your young kids are having a hard time getting the hang of it, don't worry. This game has caught on fast and won't be going anywhere soon, so you have lots of time to play.

One of the most important aspects to remember is you do have to "catch 'em all." Even if you have a dozen Rattatas, an ordinary, low-value Pokémon creature, a player should keep finding them. Why? Well, extra creatures can be traded in for candy. So what, right?

That candy can then be used to evolve creatures. What this means is there is more than one way to add Pokémon to your Pokédex.

Pokémon Go Will Make You Get Up and Get Outside


What's the Deal With Trainers?

When a player creates their character, they get to decide what their trainer looks like. Players can opt to give their trainer features similar to theirs or create someone entirely different. This is done by making apparel choices and adding accessories that make the trainer unique.

A trainer is important because it is the player's avatar. It appears on the screen, the profile page, and in gyms that are controlled by your player. The more experience a player has, the more powerful Pokémon a trainer can capture.

At some point during the game, it's around level 5, a trainer will be asked to join a team. This can be tricky and shouldn't be done without a bit of research. You can ask your friends what team they are on and choose the same team, or you can pick a different team to challenge them directly.

One of the safety concerns reported by the media surrounds team choices. We'll go over this safety concern and several others reportedly associated with the game below.

Pokémon Go Safety Concerns Explained

I've seen the same news reports, memes, and newscasts as you. I realize people have died or been injured playing the game. Does this make me want to ban my daughter, nieces, and nephews from playing the game? Absolutely not! Why? Because I've had an open and frank discussion with my daughter and those close to me and safety concerns regarding the game. With this in mind, I'll pass my tips on to you. Spoiler alert...most of these tips are simply common sense—or at least should be.

  • Don't let your young kids chase Pokémon by themselves (plus it's a great opportunity for parents and kids to do something together).
  • Stay away from sketchy parts of town. (I don't care whether a Pikachu is hiding in a dark alley in the worst part of the city—stay away.)
  • Be aware of your surroundings (listen for cars, keep your head up, and never run onto tracks or roadways).
  • Stay off of people's personal property (Don't run into your neighbor's yard or jump a fence to get close to a Charizard).
  • Keep in mind that Poké Stops and Gyms are easy to find. Be safe and check your surroundings for anyone lurking or behaving strangely.
  • Don't post pics on social media while you're actively searching for Pokémon. This is a big red flag because it lets anyone who follows you know you aren't home. And opens your home up to burglars.
  • Don't take risks! If you're on the hunt for a Bulbasaur, don't be a Dumbasaur by taking huge risks. What I'm talking about is entering restricted areas, such as train tressels, hanging out of trees, and other dangerous behavior.

Niantic recognizes that VRG is new to many people. In its July 31st update, it now features pop-up safety reminders; such as don't play while driving, be aware of your surroundings, and don't trespass while playing Pokémon Go. The pop-ups appear every time you turn on the game.

Who's the Trainer in Your Home?

Tracking and Location Concerns? Who Cares?

Please don't blow up my comment section with reasons why I should care about the tracking and location concerns reportedly associated with this game. When I first signed up for the game, I didn't think twice about the way I signed up. Does that make me ignorant? No, not at all.

A couple of days later, the media blew up with alleged reasons why I should care about how I signed up my daughter and myself to play the game. Here's the thing, I understand what they're saying—but I don't care.

If someone wants to track my movements, they'll probably be horrified by the unhealthy amount of trips I take to Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee in a single day but not much else. I don't care. I'm a 30-something mom in the midwest. Get over yourself and have fun playing the game.

If it is still really bothering you, check your iPhone or Android settings on your phone. How many apps are using push notifications? How many have location enabled? I bet quite a few. I'm also sure droids aren't following you everywhere you go, and nobody is logging how often you buy tampons.

So take a deep breath, don't let the media scare you away from playing a fun game with your kids. Pokémon Go is a new type of game but virtual reality is the wave of the future. The more educated you become now and the more you educate your children in your lives, the more prepared they will be for Pokémon Go and other games like it in the future.

Pokemon Go Plus Poll

Pokemon Go Plus Poll

What Do You Think About Pokemon Go?

A Random Velociraptor Pikachu69 on July 30, 2020:

Ash is the best. Ash is a Pikachu I named in USUM. ASH KETCHUM/KETCHUP!!!

Sara Marshall on August 15, 2016:

Never really thought about this side of the game. All praises have been sung about how this game has brought people outside of their homes and made them social. but this article is definitely enlightening on the not so bright side and a mother's point of view.

Wrench Wench from Seattle on July 21, 2016:

Absolutely great hub! I love that you wrote about it from your perspective as a mother and a player.

Bunny9294 on July 17, 2016:

This makes no sense, why is the game still available. People are getting injured more and more everyday cause of it. They blame the game for the injuries when clearly it warns yu to pay attention of yur surroundings while playing meaning pay attention to what is going on around yu and not just to the screend in front of you.