Tips for Pokémon Go Beginners

Obviously, there are one kajillion articles out there about The App That’s Taken Over The World (aka Pokémon Go), but as someone who was 110% unfamiliar with Pokémon prior to downloading the app, I’d like to share a few general tips and tricks I wish I’d known when I first started playing soooooo long ago (not even three full days have passed since I downloaded, haha).

Is there something on my shoulder?

Is there something on my shoulder?

Quick note: this is not a tutorial on how to play Pokémon Go. Enough articles have been written about that and I have barely even gotten started playing myself, so I’ll leave the real how-to’s to the experts.

Google Is Your Friend: the Pokémon Go app offers virtually no instructions on how to play. So if you’re as clueless about Pokémon or playing games on your phone as I am, take some time to read articles about how to play the game…and also about how to use the app in general. For example, the first time I went to a PokéStop I couldn’t figure out how to get stuff from it, but once I Googled how to do it, it was so simple. YouTube is a good resource for tutorials as well.

Stay Aware of Your Surroundings: this cannot be repeated enough. Every day, multiple news stories emerge about people who were injured, robbed, or attacked while playing the game. Seriously: so far, while playing the game people have fallen off a cliff, crashed their car, been robbed, been stabbed, and been locked inside a cemetery and had to call the police in order to get out. The nature of the game is such that people can set lures to attract players to remote locations and then rob them. So if you think the game is leading you somewhere you wouldn’t typically go and there aren’t a lot of people around, just don’t go. Especially after dark. It’s not worth it.

This could be you.

This could be you.

Changing Sound and Vibration Settings: it took me a bit to figure out how to turn the annoying music and sound effects off. Touch the PokéBall (the red and white circle) at the bottom of the home screen, then touch Settings in the upper right corner. There you can edit the settings, including turning battery saver mode on (which is only minimally helpful, apparently). I highly recommend leaving the vibration on…which leads me to my next tip.

Turn Your Screen Off to Save Battery Life: if the vibration setting is on, your phone will buzz when a Pokémon is close enough for you to catch. The app is a massive battery suck, so it really does help if you wander around with your screen turned off.

The App Will Crash. A Lot. It’s still early days, and with so many active users it’s no wonder the app freezes and crashes as often as it does (especially in a populated city like New York). Mine freezes pretty frequently after I’ve caught a Pokémon. When my app freezes I just close out of it, re-open it, and hope that whatever Pokémon I just caught was logged in my journal (it’s usually in there). It’s  frustrating and annoying, but hopefully the developers will fix the issue soon.

Collect Useful Items at PokéStops: these are the blue pinpoint markers topped by cubes that you see all around your map, and they are often located at landmarks or local places of interest. When you get close enough to a PokéStop to collect items from it, the cube on top will turn into a revolving disc. Tap it and a circle will show up on your screen. Here’s the part I couldn’t figure out how to do on my own: to collect the stuff, simply swipe across the circle. A few bubbles will pop out beneath the circle—tap them to collect them. The first few times you do this, they’ll likely all be PokéBalls, which you use to catch Pokémon. Another thing to note about PokéStops: they turn purple after you’ve collected items from them. After about five minutes, though, they turn blue again and you can go back and collect more stuff.

The red arrows are pointing at PokéStops

The red arrows are pointing at PokéStops

PokéStops with Pink Leaves Have Lures: sometimes you’ll see a PokéStop with a bunch of pink leaves fluttering around it. This means someone activated a lure at that PokéStop, which will attract Pokémon (and other players) to that location for 30 minutes. 

This lured PokéStop is far away, but you get the gist.

This lured PokéStop is far away, but you get the gist.

Gyms Look Like PokéStops on Steroids: “gyms” are places where you go to train your Pokémon and also to battle Pokémon from other teams. The first one I went to, I sought out because I thought it was a PokéStop, but when I tapped it a screen came up and informed me that it was a gym and that I couldn’t enter it until I hit level five. So don’t bother trying to hit up a gym before you achieve level five (which can happen very quickly if you’re playing a lot).

The red arrows are pointing at gyms

The red arrows are pointing at gyms

You Can Track Pokémon: that’s right; you don’t have to wait for them to come to you! This article explains how to track these little monsters.

This window will help you track Pokémon

This window will help you track Pokémon

You Can Photograph Pokémon from the App: it took me two and a half days to realize that when a Pokémon shows up, there’s a camera icon at the bottom right of the screen (how observant am I?!). Until I noticed the icon I would screenshot Pokémon when they appeared. You certainly don’t have to document as you see them, but I enjoy taking pics and posting them on social media. I mean…a Goldeen at Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park? That’s begging to be shared.

The red arrow is pointing at the camera icon. Don't be a dummy like me and screenshot everything.

The red arrow is pointing at the camera icon. Don’t be a dummy like me and screenshot everything.

You Can Turn Off Augmented Reality (AR): each time a Pokémon appears, you’ll see an AR toggle switch in the upper right hand corner. If you turn it off, you’ll see an animated version of the scene before you rather than a real-life version. Supposedly, doing this helps save a bit of battery life.

The PokéBall Icon is Like a File Cabinet: tap the PokéBall icon to check out your Pokédex (a grid showing which Pokémon species you’ve caught/seen and the numbers of the species you have yet to catch), a list of each individual Pokémon you’ve caught, and the items you’ve collected. You can also visit the store, where you can shop for items using coins you’ve earned (which I’m not sure how you do just yet) or bought with actual money (which I don’t plan to do).

Pokémon Appear Indoors Too: I mentioned this in my first post, but I’ve seen Pokémon inside my own apartment, on a subway platform, and inside a bar. Obviously you’ll catch way more by going outside and walking around, but it’s worth opening the app from time to time while you’re inside.

Zoe is not amused by this Rattata interloper.

Zoe is not amused by this Rattata interloper.

So those are the main tips that I feel would have been helpful for me when I first started playing. I’m sure there’s still a TON of stuff I’m completely unaware of as of this posting. Feel free to share your tips in the comments.

Have fun and be safe out there, everyone! Gotta catch ’em all!

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