Pokémon Go: 9 Things you Need to Know (as a Mom)
Have you noticed something different the past few days? Have your kids been spending an unusual amount of time outside? Have you been able to win the TV remote without a fight from the little ones? Has social media been distracted from the election and all the usual goings on in the world?
That’s because on July 6, the world has changed. Pokémon Go changed the world.
But is it a change for the better, or for the worse? Don’t worry mama, I’m going to lay it out for you in 10 easy steps.
1. What is this Pokémon Thing?
Pokémon has been a household name for two decades now. What originated as a Japanese video game quickly made its way around the globe and into the Game Boy slots of kids around the country. It continued to blossom into a Collectible Trading Card Game, a TV Series, feature length films, merchandise, and a cult following:
2. So What is the Game All About?
Pokémon follows the story of Ash Ketchum, a young boy who undertakes a journey to research, collect, and train Pokémon all around the world, for the glory to be known as the best trainer around. A Pokémon is basically a made up animal that closely resembles something in the real world. The most notable is Pikachu, a mix between a mouse, hamster, and all around lovable creature.
Basically the game is to travel from place to place, collecting these adorable critters, trading them with friends, and doing battle with each other in order to create the strongest team of gladiatorial fuzz-balls. Sounds fun, right!?
So after twenty years of success, how does Pokémon Go keep this constant treasure hunt interesting?
It does this by putting you in the world, catching the Pokémon yourself.
Which is the Pokémon?
In the game you take on the role of Ash Ketchum, and the world is filled with Pokémon to catch and train. In fact, there are currently 250 creatures roaming the streets, waiting for you to find them and log them in your Pokedex, the place where you chronicle your findings:
Google Maps provides an overlay of the real world map for you to explore. Across the world pop up wild Pokémon who hide in grassy areas for you to catch. Key point of interest (Parks, Churches, Landmarks, etc), have been converted into Poke Stops, which hold special treasure and perks for you to collect when you find them. And large gathering areas (Malls, football stadiums, etc) make the perfect spot for Pokémon Gyms to establish.
No longer a normal walk through the neighborhood!
A gym is a place where Pokémon players gather to challenge each other’s team of Pokémon to a duel. As you play through the game, you can join one of the three teams, and battle for control over the gyms. Kind of a massive scale game of capture the flag.
Overall, it’s simple, fun, and ADDICTIVE!
3. Is It Safe to Play?
Good job mama, you’re asking the right questions. And this one is a bit complicated to answer. Here are the facts:
- To play the game, you need to go outside
- The game is designed to get people to gather in public places
- The game requires you to move around a lot while staring at your phone
Those are the facts. Now here are the opinions from another mom (although to be fair my 2 year hasn’t found out about Pokémon yet…)
With shootings happening on the news almost daily, it is easy to want our kids to just stay inside where it is safe. But on the other hand, what is life without exploration and enjoying the outdoors? However, not everything is pretty about the outdoors… including finding dead corpses when searching for Pokémon.
And while the community aspect is one of the greatest of the game, it can also be the scariest. In fact it has been used as a lure people to commit armed robbery by some teenagers, and has created extremely distracted drivers. And Nintendo knows they created an extremely distracting game. Every single time you open the app, it reminds you to PAY ATTENTION:
4. Is It Healthy?
But for all the gloom and doom, there is certainly some real benefits of this game, including people actually getting sore legs from biking around town looking for Pokémon. Exercise that hadn’t been had in years.
Along with exploring for new places, you might come across a Pokémon Egg in your travels. These eggs, once incubated, will hatch into new and possibly rare Pokémon. How exciting!
But how do you hatch the eggs, you ask? By Walking. A LOT. Each egg requires 5km (3.1 miles) to hatch. And you can’t just get in the car and drive around. The game requires you to move at a reasonable walk/run/bike pace, and will stop counting your progress if you are clearly in a vehicle. I’ve got 5 eggs to hatch right now… I need new tennis shoes!
And the health benefits are not limited to just physical health. In fact, just earlier tonight my hubby and I took a long walk to decompress from the day, talk strategy, and catch Pokémon of course! Along the way, we ran into 5 other couples walking through the neighborhood, smartphones swinging by their sides.
We struck up a conversation with a few of them, and sure enough, they were ALL hunting Pokémon! We were shocked that it was already so popular.
But the shocking thing is, we have always been walkers. It’s our after-dinner thing. But until tonight, we have always walked alone. There might have been one regular jogger along the way, but that’s it. Now we are seeing people actually exploring the neighborhoods where they live, enjoying the outdoors, and laughing together. It’s a warming experience!
5. Does It Cost Money?
Pokémon Go adopts the famous “Freemium” game model, where the game itself is free to play, but you have the option to make small purchases throughout the game to make things easier or faster. In order to buy items in the game, you need to pay with Pokecoins. You can find Pokecoins as you explore. You can earn them by winning battles.
But the easiest and most direct way, is to buy them with cold hard cash:
In a world where time is money, this isn’t a bad model. If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, you can feel free to run around like crazy collecting a few coins here and there. But if you just want to get that shiny toy and have no time, spending $1 for it might not seem like a bad deal.
At this point I haven’t spent any money, and am a very casual player, and I don’t feel pressured at all to open up the wallet.
6. What Questions Should I Ask My Child?
You’re a loving mom, you want the best for your little Pokémon Trainer. So what questions should you ask them about their new obsession? Here are a few to start you off, as well as WHY you are asking them:
- Who are you playing with? Walking around in public while staring at your phone isn’t safe when you’re alone. There is strength in numbers. Make sure your child is playing with someone you trust, and make sure they know to look after each other.
- Where are the gyms around here? Gyms are places your child could be spending several minutes to an hour playing Pokémon. You want to make sure it is in a safe place that has plenty of foot traffic and is rarely secluded.
- Where are the Pokestops? Same reasons as above, but these areas are not normally loitered at. So long as your child is with a group of trusted friends, they should be able to stop by and move on without fear.
7. What Boundaries Should I Set?
This is an outdoors game, so some ground rules are in order. Here are a couple to get you started:
- Never play Pokémon alone
- Never stay out past dark
- NEVER PLAY Pokémon AND DRIVE
- Keep Find My Friends on at all times (you are already using GPS for the game, so this will be easy to watch them)
- Put the game in your pocket when you cross the street
- Don’t pay more than $xxx on the game (up to you mama)
- If you want to go into an area that I do not approve of (you know those sides of town), get my permission first or take an adult with you
Obviously these rules are dependent on the age of your child, but the point is that this game can be safe and fun in the right circumstances, but dangerous if you don’t pay attention.
8. Should I Play this Thing?
Great question, mama! I think there are some benefits to picking it up yourself. Got a Dog? Boom, perfect nightly walk. Stressed out after a long day? Nice way to relax and unwind! Think your kid is trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Best way to tell a liar is to know the truth.
Your kid might think you’re more relatable and fun if he/she sees your interest in what interests them. Or they could think you’re totally nuts for running around with 12 year olds trying to catch virtual critters.
Only one way to find out!
9. Top Gear for your Pokémon Trainer
So you’ve decided that Pokémon won’t end the world. Good job! Now to show your child how supportive and fun you are, you HAVE to deck them out in the most fashionable, and practical gear for the job.
Badges to congratulate their accomplishments:
Future trainer’s shirt:
Camelbak Backpack to stay hydrated
Standard Issue iPhone case:
Extra iPhone battery, Emergency flashlight:
So there you have it mama: the in’s and out’s of this new craze called Pokémon. I have to leave you with only one final question….
Are you gonna Catch ‘em All?