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

Have you noticed something a bit strange over the past few days?

People around you taking photos of driveways and carparks? Strangers pausing in the middle of the road to snap a shot of seemingly nothing? Meetings cancelled? Brunches postponed?

It’s okay. It’s not you. It’s Pokemon.

The new game app Pokemon GO is bringing all kinds of Australian nerds out of the woodwork. Nerds? Yes, nerds. But no one is saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, the Pokemon GO players seem to be having the time of their lives.

Players are confessing all over Twitter that the app has quickly taken over their whole worlds. Some admitted to rescheduling meetings to catch more Pokemon. Others are having near-misses in traffic, playing while they are driving (GUYS DON’T DO THAT. YOU’LL KILL THE POKEMON AND THE REAL PEOPLE).

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The app was rolled out in Australia and New Zealand only two days ago, and the whole world (well, those who knew) felt jealous while we enjoyed the crap out of it before anyone else on the planet. Only 24 hours later it was released in the US, and it is ‘coming soon’ to UK, Europe and other markets.

So, what the hell is it? Here’s a breakdown for everyone who is not a Pokemon Trainer (no, really that’s a thing).

  • Humans customise their own ‘trainer’ and choose their starter Pokemon – either Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle. Stay with me.
  • From there, they walk around their real world (like, OUTDOORS and stuff) on a map similar to Google Maps, tracking Pokemon characters through the technology of GPS. There are landmarks that represent PokeStops and Gyms. Stop asking questions, non-believers, these places are important.
  • “As you move around, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you’re near a Pokémon. Once you’ve encountered a Pokémon, take aim on your smartphone’s touch screen and throw a Poké Ball to catch it. Be careful when you try to catch it, or it might run away!” it explains on the Pokemon GO website.
  • That’s the gist of it. Collecting Pokemon, taking their photos, and then doing various battles.

Sounds super nerdy. Sign me up.

Firstly, it seems quite cool that the Pokemon have been brought into the real world (sort of… through a smartphone lens…). If this was done with My Little Pony when I was six, I would be freaking the hell out. But even now, it seems kind of cool in that typical-modern-hipster-nerd (so-uncool-it’s-cool) kinda way.

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via GIPHY

But there seems to be some genuine benefits. For starters, EXERCISE. Pokemon Go players on Twitter are admitting that they are walking more than they’ve ever walked before. Every moment of downtime is an opportunity to get outside and walk around, hunting. Their FitBits are working overtime. It’s the most exercise gamers have ever had while gaming.

Except for the ones driving around. Those lazy bastards.

Another benefit: exploring the city you are in. As the Pokemon Go website says: “Explore cities and towns around where you live and even around the globe to capture as many Pokémon as you can.

“Pokémon GO is built on Niantic’s Real World Gaming Platform and will use real locations to encourage players to search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon.”

Around your block, your neighbourhood, your city… It’s okay to be staring at your phone the whole time. Your broadening your horizons. Obvi.

via GIPHY

This is what everyone looks like right now…

There’s maybe a slight downfall; someone is very likely to get hit by a car or bus at some point in the next few days. The app even has a warning on the front screen, “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings”. No, really. Do that.

Also, it’s perhaps mildly intrusive, with players doing the odd trespass-on-strangers-property to catch a cheeky bulbasaur. One police station in Darwin (which was featured as a ‘PokeStop’ in the game) put up a PSA on Facebook to inform players that they did not need to step inside the station to fill up on Pokeballs. Busy morning at the station, apparently.

Really, it sounds like a whole lot of harmless fun. To those not playing the game, keep an eye out when you’re driving for bleary-eyed players who are too busy chasing a Sandshrew to remember their standing in the middle of a highway. Don’t honk them. They’re working hard, dammit.

And to everyone playing: may your pokeballs be plenty, your throws be accurate, and your gyms remain forever in your power. Stay safe. Catch ’em all.

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