Last Saturday I went to a birthday party and my friend was playing Pokémon Go while we were there. I had a very vague awareness that something about Pokémon was going on in the world, but I really didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I’m not into games on my phone—I’m perfectly happy with my Solitaire app. My husband downloaded Pokémon Go this past Monday night, and I still thought the whole thing was kind of dumb. Then I got up on Tuesday morning and read a New York Times article about Pokémon Go, and it completely changed my attitude (what can I say…I’m suggestible).

Catching my first wild Pokémon outdoors
Catching my first wild Pokémon outdoors

What made me decide to download the app was the realization that it could actually motivate me to get my ass out of the house and walk around outside. So I downloaded the app and, with my husband’s guidance, threw some PokéBalls at a Bulbasaur that appeared inside my apartment.

Later that morning I went out for a stroll to try and figure out how this whole thing works. I wandered around for a while not having a clue what I was doing, but I managed to catch a couple wild Pokémon starting with the Pidgey you see above. I was pretty much flying blind, as I hadn’t done any Googling on how to play. I also knew absolutely nothing about Pokémon; I had never played any of the games or watched any of the cartoons. I found a nearby gym but discovered that I couldn’t enter it until I hit level five (but I also learned that you can level up pretty quickly—I hit level five within 12 hours of downloading the app).

After some wandering and trying but failing to figure out how to get stuff from a nearby PokéStop, I went home and started Googling. And Googling. And Googling. I spent a lot of time on Tuesday reading up on how to play Pokémon Go. As a complete beginner, I found this website to be incredibly helpful. This Kotaku article was also good. The sheer amount of information that is already out there on how to play this game is unbelievable. The app has only been out for eight days! If you’re a total Pokémon newbie like I am, I highly recommend spending some time reading up on the app before venturing out in the wild with it. One important thing to know is that you can actually track Pokémon—you don’t have to wait for them to show up near you. Another very important tip is that you can turn your phone’s screen off as you track, and the phone will buzz to alert you that a Pokémon is within range of catching. I try to keep my phone screen off as much as possible, because this app sucks the hell out of your battery life!

Once I had a better idea of how to play properly I went back outside and walked over to Prospect Park, because I figured there would be a ton of Pokémon over there. I was right! I caught so many Pokémon in the park. The only one I couldn’t catch was this scary-looking Golbat:


I definitely saw some other players out there, and one guy walked past me as I was throwing PokéBalls at the Golbat and he said, “yaaaasssss, catch ’em all!” It made me smile.  🙂

I even made a collage of a bunch of the Pokémon that I spotted that afternoon (I love the Spearow that sat on my keyboard):


That first day, I walked six and a half miles—way more than an average day for me! And yesterday I walked more than seven miles while hunting Pokémon! My Fitbit is so happy right now.

Despite the app being an excellent motivation to walk around, you don’t always have to go outside to catch Pokémon; sometimes they come to you. This Pidgey showed up on our stairs, and Walter had no idea what was happening:


Appropriately, I caught a Rattata on the F train platform at 14th Street in Manhattan yesterday :


While I was on an outdoor section of the F train yesterday I passed a gym and quickly managed to join Team Blue before the train went out of the gym’s range, but haven’t actually gone to a gym to train or battle yet. That’ll be on my agenda for later today. I did some Googling to see how the gym stuff works as well; this YouTube video gives a quick rundown on gyms.

I am dying to see how this app changes the San Diego Comic-Con experience. SDCC starts next Thursday, and I have the feeling there will be epic Pokémon Go crawls everywhere we go, assuming the app doesn’t keep crashing. My husband and I have both had a lot of issues with it freezing on us, but hopefully the developers will make some tweaks and resolve the problems soon.

When you’re Pokémon hunting with someone else you can take silly photos like these:


This has been said everywhere, and a warning even comes up every time you open the app, but I’ll repeat it: if you are playing Pokémon Go, PLEASE, for the love of all that is holy, remain aware of your surroundings. Someone has already crashed his car while playing, and I’m fully expecting to hear within the next week that someone has died while playing (though of course I hope that doesn’t happen).  Also? Be respectful as you play. Pokémon can show up basically anywhere, but that doesn’t mean every corner of the globe is an appropriate place to play a game on your phone. So, like…don’t play at the 9/11 Memorial or in the Holocaust Museum. Seriously.

Are you playing Pokémon Go? What level have you reached so far? I hit level eight this morning!