Pokémon Go: A beginner's guide

If you haven't already heard, Pokémon Go is already the most popular mobile game of all time. It allows you to wander the world catching adorable pocket-sized monsters and finding awesome new landmarks around your city as you do so. There's a lot going on with this game, but we've put together a guide to get you started.

What is Pokémon Go?

You've probably already seen the droves of people who are wandering around in cities around the world looking for Pokémon to capture as they play Pokémon Go. If you've never played a Pokémon game before you might be confused as to what the heck is actually going on. The basic idea is that the world is populated by Pokémon, or pocket monsters. These little animals are all over the place, and to become the best Pokemon Trainer possible, you need to catch them all.

Pokémon Go works from an awesome premise. By walking around the actual real world, you'll be able to find Pokémon. You'll also come across PokéStops and Gyms which are located at landmarks like murals or churches. You can check into PokéStops to collect experience or items. By taking a Gym, you'll place a Pokémon inside to defend it and earn points for your team.

The fantastic thing is that you don't need to have ever played a Pokémon game before to enjoy this game. It's a great way to have a reason to go for that hour long walk through your neighborhood. Just install the app from Google Play and dive right in!

How to dive in

Now it's time to get started with Pokémon Go. While there are plenty of moving parts to this game, it's actually not particularly difficult to get started. Rather than throwing everything at you immediately, the game gives you a little bit of time

Initially you'll want to go ahead and create an account. This is done by using either a Google account, or a Pokémon Trainer Club account. This account is where all of your data — and your Pokémon — will be stored. It doesn't make a huge difference in which one you use, but you do need to pick an account to sign in with. While you are making your account, you'll also need to choose a name that all other players will see when you are holding a Gym.

Next comes customizing your avatar within the game. You'll be able to pick your gender, eye color, hair color, hair style, hat, pants, shirt and backpack style. There are a few options for each of these which gives you plenty of choices to make your avatar completely yours. After you've completed creating your account, you'll be given the chance to capture your first Pokemon.

More: Get Pikachu as your starting Pokémon

Immediately after that, you'll see the world of Pokémon Go appear around you. Your avatar will appear on a brightly colored map that shows the world around you, minus any buildings. You'll be able to see roads, any nearby Pokémon and nearby PokéStops or Gyms. When you move around in the real world, you'll see your avatar walk along as well. A red circle will show up around your avatar, to show you any Pokémon close enough to capture.

There's also a fair amount of stuff on your screen, even when you aren't moving.

  • Nearby Pokémon: At the bottom left of your screen is a small white rectangle. If you tap on this it will show you icons of nearby Pokémon, along with track marks to indicate how far away they are.
  • Avatar: on the bottom left is an icon of your Avatar's face and level. If you tap this icon it will bring up your avatar and let you see your current XP, level, coins and team.
  • Pokédex: This is the catalog of all the Pokémon that you have found. It's here that you can view information on the different breeds of Pokemon.
  • Pokémon: This is where all of the Pokémon that you have caught live. This is where you'll go when you need to power up, evolve, or heal any of the Pokémon in your roster.
  • Items: This is where all of the items that you have purchased, or acquired at PokéStops will end up.

More: Dealing with problems in the Pokémon Go app

Catching Pokémon

Once you've gotten yourself set up, and become acquainted with the game, it's time to get out there and capture yourself some Pokémon! We're gonna warn you though, to do that you're going to have to go outside. By wandering around out there, you'll come across Pokémon in the wild.

More: Get a curveball bonus in Pokémon Go

When this happens, your phone will vibrate and you'll see the Pokémon in question pop up on your screen. Once the Pokémon is inside the red circle that appears around your avatar, tap on it and you'll be given the chance to capture it. Tapping on it launches the AR (Augmented Reality) mode, unless you've turned your camera off.

You'll see the Pokémon in front of you on the screen. You'll need to press on the Pokéball that appears and swipe it towards the Pokémon. Don't get discouraged if you miss the first time, because it definitely takes a little bit of practice to get the Pokéball exactly where you need it. When it hits the Pokémon, it will attempt to capture them. If it works that Pokémon is now added to your collection, if not you'll have to try and capture it again before it runs away from you.

Lower level Pokémon are a bit easier to catch, so if you're having a particular issue you might need to use higher tiered Poké Balls, or items like the Razz Berry to catch them. The easy way to tell is the targeting circle that appears around a Pokémon. Green circles are easy to catch, yellow are a bit more difficult, and red will almost always require items or a better Pokéball to capture.

Pokémon Go items

Pokemon Go Store

There are plenty of different types of items in Pokémon Go. From incense that will bring Pokémon in the area to you, to Poké Balls that you'll need to use to capture the Pokémon on your journey. You can get items from one of two places. You'll be able to collect items at random anytime that you check in at a Pokéstop, or you can use gold to purchase specific items from within the store.

More: How to use Razz berries

More: Best way to use a Lucky Egg

There are a variety of items that you'll come across in game. Of course you'll find Poké Balls, which are what you need in order to capture Pokémon. Incense with call nearby Pokémon to you or you can place a lure module at a Pokéstop to bring in more Pokémon. Lucky eggs will allow you double your XP for 30 minutes.

More: How to use coins in Pokemon Go

Using coins you can also purchase extra egg incubators, or upgrade your backpack and your Pokémon storage. There are only two ways to get coins though. You'll either need to hold a Gym for 24 hours, or using actual currency to purchase more Pokécoins.

Eggs and Incubators

One of the items that you'll eventually end up picking up when you check in at a Pokéstop is an Egg. Each egg has to be hatched by placing it into an incubator, and then walking a predetermined distance. Each egg will tell you how far you need to walk in order to hatch it.

More rare Pokémon can be hatched out of eggs that have a higher distance that you need to travel. You'll see 2KM up to 10KM eggs. Now, the incubator that you start out with can be used as many times as you would like to. If you want more incubators, you'll need to use Pokécoins to purchase them, and they will break down after several uses. The big thing to remember when trying to hatch an egg is that the app needs to be open while you walk, and you won't be able to cheat by just driving around in the car.

Leveling up and Evolution

Pokemon Go

So after you've caught a few Pokémon, you might be wondering how you make them stronger or evolve them. In the original games, this was done by fighting other wild Pokémon, but since that isn't how Pokémon Go works, they've given us another route.

More: Level up your trainer in Pokémon Go

Every time that you capture a Pokémon you'll receive stardust and Pokémon candies. Each breed of Pokémon requires a certain number of candies to evolve, and the only way to get those candies is by catching more of the same Pokémon, or sending duplicates to Professor Willow. Just remember that while you will get a single candy for sending duplicates to the Professor, that particular Pokémon is now gone forever.

By tapping on the Pokémon that you want to power up, you'll be given a choice. You can power them up using a single candy and some of your stardust. This will increase their HP and CP to make them more effective at fighting other Pokémon. To evolve a Pokémon you'll need a specific number of candies, as well as enough stardust.


Pokemon Go Battle

Much like PokéStops, Gyms are actual locations in the real world. You'll be doing more than just checking in at Gyms, though. It's here that your Pokémon will actually have to battle. There's two goals here — claim a Gym for your team and raise the prestige to make it more difficult to capture, or defeat the opposing faction that currently controls that Gym.

From a distance, you'll be able to see which faction controls a Gym by its color on the map. If you tap on that Gym, you'll see what Pokémon are currently defending that Gym. Once you're close enough to a Gym you will have three options, depending on the situation.

  • Attack the current Gym owners — if your faction does not currently have control of this Gym, you can attack it with a group of six Pokémon. Your Pokédex will automatically recommend the six Pokémon best suited for defeating the Gym, but you can swap in others if you prefer. Every successful assault on a Gym lowers its prestige, and when that prestige is lowered to zero the defending Pokémon are removed and you can claim it for your faction.
  • Train at a Gym your team controls — When you team controls a Gym you are allowed to send a single Pokémon to battle anything defending that Gym. For every battle you win, the prestige of that gym is raised.
  • Leave a Pokémon to defend the Gym — As the prestige of a Gym is raised, the Gym levels up. For each level the Gym increases, another Pokémon can be left to defend. You can only leave one Pokémon, but other members of your faction can now also leave Pokémon to defend.

More: How to claim a Gym in Pokémon Go

Fighting at a Gym consists of three basic concepts. Swipe left or right to dodge an attack, tap to launch your base attack, and hold your finger down on your Pokémon to launch a more elaborate attack. The secondary attack can only be used when the meter below your Pokémon's name is glowing bright blue. Some Pokémon can charge up multiple secondary attacks to be used back to back, while others are limited to more powerful singular attacks.

More: Which team should you join?

Are you ready to play?

There is one giant perk of holding a Gym: Once you control a Gym, and for every 24 hour period after the first attempt, you can claim Pokécoins which can then be used within the store. This is called a Defender bonus, and is claimed through the shield icon in the store. We've already heard Niantic say that they plan on adding much more to Gyms and Pokéstops, so we'll have to wait and see what comes next.

The thing to really remember is that this is just the info to really get you started with Pokémon Go. As the game updates and moves forward there is only going to be more to do. Do you still have questions about getting started with Pokémon Go? Do you think we missed something that should be part of getting started with Pokémon Go? Drop a line in the comments below!

Jen Karner

Jen is a staff writer who spends her time researching the products you didn't know you needed. She's also a fantasy novelist and has a serious Civ VI addiction. You can follow her on Twitter.