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What is Pokemon Go, and why is everyone talking about it?

New mobile game is making headlines across the US
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Posted at 6:32 AM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 09:08:08-04

Odds are, if you haven't heard about Pokemon Go yet, you will. The new mobile game is making headlines due to it's immense popularity. Not sure what it is? This is for you.

 

So, what is it?

Pokemon Go is a new augmented-reality game for iOS based on the popular Pokemon video game series.

 

Wait...what? What is augmented reality?

You've probably heard of virtual reality -- where you put on a headset, and get placed in a computer-generated world. Augmented reality is similar, but there's no headset needed here. Here, items from the real world are combined with computer-generated items using a phone.

A picture from the game may help explain it.

That's a real photo of an intersection. That is not a real 'starfish' in the middle. That's the augmented part.

What makes it so unique is how it's played. Most games on your phone are played sitting, just staring at your screen. Here -- people have to walk (or ride or drive) across their towns, and hold up their phone's camera to find the creatures known as 'Pokemon.'

 

What's the point of the game?

Basically, to catch as many Pokemon as possible. People can walk around, and 'find' virtual Pokemon in the real world. Sometimes they're on sidewalks. Sometimes they're indoors. They can be just about anywhere.

The game is deeper than that, but the hunt for Pokemon is much of the appeal. In fact, Pokemon's slogan is 'Gotta catch them all.'

 

 

So why is it so popular?

Pokemon has been around for 20 years, and has always been hugely popular, (your kids have probably played it) but it's always been restricted to Nintendo handheld systems. This is the first universal release on smartphones.

Just how popular is it? It's already exceeded dating app Tindr in users, and it nearly has as many daily users at Twitter. And it's only been out in the U.S. for a week! The rollout to other countries even had to be delayed, because servers can't handle the number of users.

 

I keep seeing headlines about safety? Is the game safe?

The game itself is generally very safe, but as with anything involving walking outside, people need to be aware of their surroundings -- especially given you're expected to look at the phone as part of the game. There have been warnings in Australia reminding players to look up before they cross the road.

There was also an incident in Missouri where would-be robbers created what's called a 'beacon,' and robbed players that responded to it. That appears to be an isolated incident.

There have also been reports of drivers crashing because they were playing the game, (Don't play while driving!) and a person in Wyoming finding a dead body after roaming around trying to find Pokemon.

 

Does it cost anything to play?

The game is a free download, and can be played completely free, but there are paid add-ons that can speed up some experiences in the game.

The game does need GPS activated to work, and keeps the screen on at all times, both of which can be a drain on your phone's battery.