If you've somehow managed to avoid the Internet for the past few days, Pokémon is back, and it's been updated for the app age.
In case you missed the Poké craze of the '90s, Pokémon is short for "pocket monsters," which encompassed a TV show, card games and handheld games. (Which are still being churned out!)
Pokémon Go, released July 6 for both iOS and Android, turns the phenomenon (almost) into reality. Using the GPS and clock on users' phones, the free app shows Pokémon appearing around players as they travel through their real-world surroundings looking at their phones. The goals of the game are spelled out in the Pokémon theme song: “To catch them is my real test/to train them is my cause.” Players wander around, trying to catch different types of Pokémon, picking up items and sometimes battling one another for control of Pokémon gyms.
If you're a Houston player looking to become the very best, like no one ever was, check out our guide to playing Pokémon Go.
Just getting started? Head to Discovery Green.
When asked where Houston players should go first, player Joe Korbut didn't hesitate: “Discovery Green is the best place I've seen so far,” he said. The park hosts 14 Pokéstops, or landmarks where players can pick up free virtual items, according to an online map collaboratively created by Houston Pokémon Go players. Plus, players often use their “lure module” — which looks like a bunch of petals surrounding each Pokéstop (okay, yes, we know this is confusing, but stay with us), which gives an advantage to all nearby players. (The lure module must be bought as an in-app purchase, so if you want to avoid spending money on a fictional game, this is your chance.)
Plus, the park is a great place to befriend fellow Pokémon trainers, who roam the park in droves. And if you work late, don't worry! “It gets really popular at night,” advised player Jonathan Hernandez.
Look for hot spots in parks and public art – but expect the unexpected.
Since different types of Pokémon gather in different spots all over town, don't limit yourself to just Discovery Green. Korbut advised that players check out the Galleria, while fellow player Lisa Beckman said Rice Village was the place to go. Pokétops and gyms, or places where trainers can battle their Pokémon against one another, can also be found all over the city.
“You can really expect them to be in major art pieces through Houston, or parks, or museums,” said trainer Charles Celli. But he's also found a large number of PokeStops in an unusual type of place: “You'll find a lot of Pokéstops associated with churches,” Celli said, adding that he caught his first Pokémon (“a Zubat or something”) at a Midtown Baptist church, near Camden City Centre.
Don't agonize over choosing a team.
Once players hit level five, they're expected to join a team: Team Instinct (whose team colors are yellow), Team Mystic (blue) or Team Valor (red). When you battle other players' Pokémon for control of gyms, you're not just battling for yourself – you're also battling on behalf of your team. While Houston players seem split over whether Mystic or Valor is the best, most agree: Instinct is the most underrepresented team in the city. “Instinct is the underdog,” Celli, an Instinct team member, admitted. “Everyone makes fun of Team Instinct.”
But, he said, Pokémon Go players are so approachable that new trainers shouldn't worry about feeling alienated thanks to their choice in teams. “Everyone's really friendly and will show you the ropes of how to catch Pokémon, and that's how you make new friends,” Celli said. “Start talking about what team you're on and you'll make even more friends that way.”
Take advantage of local Pokémon Go-related deals.
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Houston businesses are also taking advantage of Pokémon Go's popularity by offering nearby players special deals and discounts. On Saturday, the vaping store New Element Fine Vapors placed a lure in the Pokéstop located next door and offered 20 percent off on all juice to the trainers who used it. Station Theater, which has a gym buried in a mural painted on the front of its building, is also trying to inspire some healthy competition: If you happen to control the gym at showtime on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, you win two free tickets to the show.
Don't forget to occasionally look up.
“Watch where you're going,” laughed player Kat Orta. “Because I already crashed into a person.” And collisions aren't the only possible downside: While a player in rural Wyoming stumbled across a dead body, police in O'Fallon, Missouri, reported that they had arrested armed robbers who'd used the app's GPS feature to locate and lure in Pokémon Go players.
“We encourage all people playing Pokémon Go to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar players,” said the game's makers, The Pokémon Company International and Niantic, in a joint statement in response to these incidents. So as you travel across the land, searching far and wide, be cautious.