Important Things To Know When Starting Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO

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So you have finally caved in under the immense pressure and have decided to venture into the world of Pokémon GO. This can be a daunting task at first, especially with so many Pokémon out there, but also because the game doesn’t always make its mechanics clear to the uninitiated. So, to assist in this daunting task I’ve put this list together of things that will help you get to grips with the various mechanics of the game.


What are all these icons on my screen?

Once you have created your avatar (Trainer) and have chosen your starter Pokémon (Charizard rules), then Pokémon GO leaves you staring at a map of your surroundings dotted with strange icons. What are these icons, what do they mean, should I stay away from them, and do they indicate free ice-cream? These might just be some of the questions you will have in the beginning. The game does indicate what some of these are, but this might not always be clear.

So, to start off there are currently two main icons on the map, the Pokéstop (floating square) and the Pokémon Gym (the elaborate spire). The Pokéstop is where you can replenish your items. By clicking on the icon, you will be able to spin a disc which will spew out items such as Pokéballs and incense. By tapping on these items you are able to add them to your inventory. You are only able to do this when you are within range of the Pokéstop. It’s also important to note that Pokéstops refresh about every 5 minutes, so revisiting the same one after a while could be a quick way to get more items.

Pokémon Gyms are where the action currently takes place. When in the range of a gym players can attempt to challenge the current defenders of the gym and should they defeat them claim the gym for their team. Holding on to gyms nets the player a daily package of in-game currency. However, in order to hold on to a gym players need to leave a Pokémon as a defender. This means that you won’t be able to interact with it during this period. If that Pokémon is defeated they return to your inventory. Players are only able to participate in these battles when they reach level 5.

There is another elusive icon that appears every now and then and takes the form of rustling leaves. Now, when I started playing I thought this indicated that there will be a Pokémon in that exact spot so I decided to walk all the way to the spot only to realize that wasn’t the case. The icon only indicates that you have a better chance of finding a Pokémon in that area but this doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to find one there.


There’s a funny little bar staring at me in the corner.

The bar in the right-hand corner of the screen indicates what Pokémon are in your vicinity and how close they are to your current position. When you tap the icon you will notice images of various Pokémon with little footprints beneath each. The images show you exactly which Pokémon are currently hanging around your neighborhood ,with the footprints indicating their distance from you. One footprint indicates that the Pokémon is relatively close, meaning that a very short walk might be in order, three footprints, however, means that you might want to put on some comfy shoes as it could take a while to get to the specific Pokémon.

Track bar

Help! I have hundreds of Geodudes clogging up my inventory.

This happens to me a lot. For some reason a herd (flock? pack? drove?) of Geodudes decides that it is time to migrate through my neighborhood, leaving me with an inventory clogged up with them. So what do you do? Evolving and powering-up Pokémon works a bit different that it does in other Pokémon games. Instead of Pokémon gaining experience through battles and evolving, players need to feed them specific types of candy and start dust in order to achieve this. Not only does each Pokémon give you candy and stardust when you capture them, you also gain candy for each Pokémon you transfer to Professor Willow (exchanging Pokémon with a grown-up for candy does feel a little bit weird). This is done by tapping on the relevant Pokémon icon in your inventory and scrolling down to transfer and then tapping on it. By transferring your duplicate Pokémon to Professor Willow you can quickly and easily evolve or power-up your Pokémon.


Why are there no water-type Pokémon around?

It might be because you aren’t close enough to a water source, how do you expect Magikarp to survive on dry land? You see certain Pokémon, as they would in real-life, if they were real, appear in certain areas in Pokémon GO. These areas depend on the type of Pokémon, for instance, water-type Pokémon only appear near bodies of water (lakes, rivers, and sea). The same goes for nocturnal Pokémon, who are more prevalent during the evenings. So if you want that Horsea, you need to get off your couch and find a lake or river (unless you are lucky enough to stay near the ocean).


I’m stuck in a classroom/ office and can’t go out. What now?

I have had many a day where I was stuck in an office being an adult (which always seems to suck). So how pray tell do I catch Pokémon when I’m stationary for most of the day? It’s actually quite easy, just use your incense. You see for some odd reason Pokémon can’t resist the smell of incense, so by activating it you increase the chances of the Pokémon coming to you instead of you having to sneak out of the office every now and then. Once you run out of incense you can buy more at the store or just visit one or two Pokéstops.


I picked up an egg. Do I feed it to my Pokémon?

No! Stop, those eggs are filled with growing Pokémon embryos. As you progress in the game you might pick up an egg. These eggs can be hatched by using an incubator. At the Pokémon screen, you can swipe to the right to access the egg menu. You can then tap on an egg and choose to start incubating it. Rather than being time based these eggs only hatch after you have walked the required distance. A very important thing to note is that the game does not track your movement using the pedometer but rather the GPS. I only discovered this after spending an hour on a treadmill and not having hatched even one. It also seems to not register when driving which means that you need to get up and walk the distance. It seems Pokémon GO really wants you to go walking.


I keep chucking Pokéballs at the Pokémon, but they continue escaping.

There is a trick to successfully capturing Pokémon that isn’t clearly explained to players in Pokémon GO. After you have successfully tracked down a Pokémon and it is starring right at you, your first instinct usually is to just flick as many Pokéballs in its direction until you capture it. Although this can be a successful strategy you will be running out of precious Pokéballs faster than you can say Pikachu. So how do you increase your chances of capturing it without wasting Pokéballs? The trick is that once you press down on the Pokéball a contracting colored ring form around the Pokémon. The idea is to wait until the ring gets to its smallest state then chuck the Pokéball at the Pokémon (aiming for their head). The smaller the ring the less the chance is of the Pokémon escaping. The color of the ring also indicates how difficult it will be to capture the specific Pokémon. Green meaning easy, orange more of a challenge and red of course indicates difficult. It is also important to note that as your level increase so does your chances of finding and capturing rare Pokémon.


What is this “CP” thing that I see above my Pokémon?

“CP” or as I like to call it “your Pokémon’s level” is an indication of how powerful it will be in battle. The higher the “CP'” the harder your Pokémon hits and the harder it can be hit. Powering up and evolving your Pokémon increases their “CP” which in turn increases its damage output and health points. So if you want to stand any chance of beating the Raticate guarding that gym you will need to increase your Growlithe’s “CP”.


Go out meet people and make friends. Just be careful.

The most important thing about Pokémon GO is to go out, explore, have fun and maybe meet some new friends along the way. Watching out for your fellow Pokémon trainers can be just as important as catching a rare Pokémon. Just remember to always be aware of your surroundings and to look up every now and then.

Fun times

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