Pokémon Go: what’s the deal?

Walker Chuppe / The USD Vista Students can find Pokémon in front of Maher Hall.

Walker Chuppe / The USD Vista
Students can find Pokémon in front of Maher Hall.


Over the past few months, the digital world has been abuzz with the hot new mobile game, Pokémon Go, and the University of San Diego has become a Pokémon hunting ground.

Niantic released the game on July 6, 2016 for both Android and iOS platforms and already features a player base well into the millions. Some reports have listed the free-to-play game having over 100 million active players.

Senior Michele Demaio has joined in playing the hyped new game, but is not sure that the game is as pure as the original Pokémon games.

“It feeds into my nostalgia, but it’s a twisted take on the Pokémon I grew up with,” Demaio said.  “But its addictiveness speaks for itself since I’m still playing it despite its flaws, and it’s definitely a great idea that is going to revolutionize gaming”.

Pokémon Go is based on Nintendo’s classic franchise, but also features some unique upgrades on the original Pokémon games that debuted in the United States on Sept. 30, 1998, almost 20 years earlier. The Pokémon series is developed around the concept of catching pokémon, or pocket monsters. As the player catches these pokémon, they increase in strength over time while taking part in pokémon battles, which are sparring sessions between other players and their pokémon. Over time, if a player feels his or her Pokémon are strong enough, they can challenge a Pokémon gym, which are locations featuring strong opponents from the surrounding area.

Sophomore Anas Salah has been feeling the addictiveness of Pokémon. His overall experience with Pokémon has been enhanced with the release of Pokémon Go.

“I’ve been playing Pokémon since the day it came out; it’s like an obligation to me at this point,” Salah said.

Pokémon Go retains all of the original aspects of the Pokémon games, but also adds real-world functionality and player-to-player connectivity.

In the Nintendo games released in 1998, most of the game’s focus was around a single trainer playing through the game against non-player characters. Pokémon Go is different in that most of the game revolves around interacting with other players, and the way a player catches pokémon is vastly different. Whereas in the original Pokémon games pokémon appeared at random, in Pokémon Go, the appearance of pokémon is largely based on the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of the player’s phone.

Recent USD graduate Hector Martinez has been playing Pokémon Go avidly and has learned to take advantage of the GPS feature.

“We’ve found some rare pokémon in front of the IPJ,” Martinez said.  “There are a lot of common pokémon around, but, if you want some water pokémon, I suggest you try out the beaches.”

This GPS functionality has led Pokémon Go players to go out and adventure, typically looking for a specific type of pokémon or rare ones that only appear in certain real-world areas.

Additionally, many businesses, landmarks, and points-of-interest have been turned into Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms on the game’s map. These locations offer players places to collect items and battle against one another. After the game’s release, it has become increasingly common to see groups of people attempting to catch pokémon and visit Pokéstops and gyms, especially in areas with a large amount of landmarks and businesses, like downtown San Diego and Balboa Park.

It is possible that Pokémon Go’s success can be attributed to the fact that the game allows anyone to chase after pokémon in real life, something that nearly everyone who played the games from 1998 onward has probably daydreamed about at least once or twice. It has also become incredibly popular among college-aged individuals, likely because pokémon evokes nostalgia for those who played the original games almost two decades ago. Even USD has a number of Pokéstops and Gyms, which will only encourage more students to play.

There are already over 100 million Pokémon Go players out there;   now we’ll have to see if students can catch ‘em all.