Ann Arbor Pokémon GO is today’s Wednesday Activity Review
Each Wednesday this summer, Ann Arbor with Kids is covering an activity typically aimed at children in Elementary School. Today, we’re talking about playing Pokémon GO in Ann Arbor with your children. My daughter and I took a trip downtown and played from the Library to the Farmers Market. If you’re new to Pokémon GO, we have some advice on how to get started.
We were on vacation last week when the game debuted, so we didn’t get to start exploring Pokémon GO until yesterday. It is definitely a great way to explore Ann Arbor and to encourage kids to get outside.
What is Pokémon GO
So what exactly is Pokémon GO? It is an augmented reality game played on your smartphone. In the game, Pokémon are spread around the world and you try to capture them. Along the way, you will encounter numerous PokéStops which are special stops that have tools to help you in the game. Gyms are also located around town but are not quite as plentiful. Each player selects one of 3 teams who have the option to control the Gym. Players need to reach a Level 5 before they can compete at a Gym.
To get started, install Pokémon GO on your mobile device. You will probably want to use a phone as it will have a data signal no matter where you are located. I am going to experiment with my daughter playing on her iPod Touch and using the hotspot on my phone in hopes that it will preserve my battery. However, I don’t think the GPS location will be accurate enough for easy gameplay.
Once you install Pokémon GO, you will need to login to the system. There are two choices – Google Account or creating a Pokémon Trainer account. When the iOS app was first released, it requested permission to access your entire Google account. Because of this, I opted to create a Pokémon Trainer account. I had to create an adult account first. In order to create your child’s account, you need to provide your exact birthdate, address, first and last digits of your SSN, and more information. I decided it was asking for too much, and have just been using my Pokémon Trainer account. The good news is that the Google Account is now a viable option because the iOS app has been updated and no longer asks for such extensive Google account access.
Customize your Player
You can customize your player to be male or female with various options for hair color, eye color, clothing colors, etc. You can also select a screen name. Your screen name will display when you control a Gym.
Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head out to play Pokémon GO. The app is a battery hog because of the constant use of the GPS signal. If you have a portable battery, I recommend bringing it (and a charging cord) with you. At the very least, bring a cord for your car or if you stop someplace with a power outlet.
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If you have limited data, you may also be concerned about the data usage.
Playing Pokémon GO Basics
I found the Pokémon GO app to be severely lacking in directions. Fortunately, as we’ve been walking around playing, most people are more than willing to offer advice if they hear us struggling or we stop to talk about a location.
Once Pokémon GO is installed and you are logged in, you are ready to play Pokémon GO. When you first load the app, it will connect to the server and display a map of your location. PokéStops and Gyms will be indicted with different symbols. Nearby Pokémon characters will appear on the screen. As you approach a PokéStop or a Gym, you will see a circle around it to indicate the range of the location. Once you are in it, the PokéStop will display a Pokéball over the top.
The Pokémon Map
When you first start the Pokémon GO App, your avatar will be displayed on the map. Roads and buildings will be displayed (without names) but provide you with a navigation framework. You can zoom and rotate the map by pinching and rotating your fingers (standard map navigation). PokéStops, Gyms, and nearby Pokémon will be labeled on the map. You can tap them for more information (such as a name or picture) to help you navigate to them. The PokéStops and Gyms will have a circle around them as you approach to indicate their range. Once you are in range of a PokéStop, it will have a Pokéball image above it.
Capturing a Pokémon
When you see a Pokémon nearby, double tap the character on the map and your screen will use your camera to show the local surroundings with the Pokemon superimposed over them. At the bottom of the screen will be your supply of “Pokéballs” to toss at the Pokémon to capture it. The goal is to hit the Pokémon with the Pokéball. Swipe up from the Pokéball towards the Pokémon to launch the Pokéball. The faster you swipe, the further the Pokéball will fly (which is important when trying to capture flying Pokémon).
Some Pokémon have defensive capabilities and can swat the Pokéball away. Some can also escape from a Pokéball – we caught a Jynx 6 times and it escaped each time. After catching a Pokémon, they will be added to your Pokédex. Each time you capture a Pokémon, you will earn experience points which will help you level up to a more advanced player. Pokémon that you have captured for the first time are worth more experience points. You’ll need more experience points to reach higher levels to unlock more options. For example, Gyms are not available until you have reached a Level 5.
If you click on a PokéStop, it will have a name and a description of that PokéStop. Swipe sideways over the circular image to release the “goodies” at the PokéStop. Seriously, this took me forever to figure out – I was double tapping, single tapping, and it worked on occasion. Now that I know to swipe, it works almost every time (sometimes the PokéStop is out of goodies). Once you have retrieved the items from a PokéStop, it will turn Purple on your map. I have been told that you can return to a PokéStop and retrieve more items after 5 minutes (it will return to a blue color). We were able to return to PokéStops when we retraced our steps back to our car.
Each PokéStop has room for one module. The only module I have seen activated is a Lure which works for 30 minutes to lure Pokemon to the area of the PokéStop. Any player can lay a lure. Some businesses are using lures to attract players to their businesses.
Walking around Downtown Ann Arbor we found numerous PokéStops and were able to refill the PokéBall supply that we depleted trying to capture Jynx. Most blocks had at least one PokéStop and many blocks had multiple PokéStops.
I don’t know a lot about Gyms since we haven’t had any success with them yet. You have to be a Level 5 player to access a Gym (you’ll need the experience points that you earn to reach this level). We only achieved a Level 5 this afternoon. Our first two attempts at a gym were not successful in loading the gym battle since we were periodically encountering some server difficulties. When we finally were able to successfully load a gym outside the Downtown Branch of the AADL, our 130CP character was quickly defeated by the gym owner with 600CP. We’re definitely at a disadvantage to joining the game a few days later. I’m hopeful that we’ll find some less powerful characters at Gyms in our neighborhood. My daughter figured out how to upgrade and evolve our characters, so hopefully this will help. If anyone has other tips for winning in a Gym, I’ll gladly take them.
Pokémon GO is a free app and you can definitely play without spending any money. In-app purchases are available, so you will want to make sure your password is set before handing the device to your children. In-app purchases allow you to add features like Lure Modules or Incense for your character or upgrades to your Pokémon. We have started to use the basic free upgrade methods to upgrade and evolve a few of our Pokémon to be able to compete at Gyms.
We’ve obtained eggs at several PokéStops. By tapping on the Pokéball, you can access a menu to see all of your Pokémon and switch to the eggs tab. You can hatch eggs by how much you walk while the app is open. We hatched our first egg today (2.0km) and found a Weedle. We’re working on our second egg (0.7 km into a 5.0km egg). It’s a great motivation for kids to get exercise. We would be further into that egg, but it started raining and we cut our walk short.
Pokémon GO was just released on Thursday, July 7th and there are still glitches in the system, and the server seems unable to handle the load. During our gameplay around lunchtime today, we encountered several issues. A couple of times, we caught a Pokémon only to have the app freeze. We had to force close the app and relaunch it. We also had a few times where it was unable to contact the server on loading the app. We also had an empty map a few times and were unable to load a Gym battle twice. I hope they add server space and refine the app.
Where to Play
You can play Pokémon GO not just around Ann Arbor, Michigan, the US, but also in many places around the world. However, you still need to use common sense when playing the game.
Ann Arbor Pokémon GO Locations
We started playing yesterday at Briarwood Mall. There is a PokéStop where the waterfall display used to be (in the court in front of JC Penney’s) and a Gym in the court in front of Sears. Today, we played in Downtown Ann Arbor from the Downtown library to the Farmers Market and back.
Pokémon GO is a great incentive for tech loving kids to join you running errands (yes, we’ve found Pokémon inside Meijer) and to visit the park. We’ve had great success in parks around Ann Arbor.
Pokémon GO is a great social game for kids. Unlike social media, there is no personal information displayed and no messaging or photo sharing component of Pokémon GO. The only thing about a player that is displayed is their screen name and avatar which doesn’t offer many customization.
However, there are still a few safety precautions that you should take.
No playing while driving! No stopping in the middle of crossing a street to catch a Pokémon. In my experience, I could access PokéStops and Pokémon from across the street, so there shouldn’t be a need to stop while crossing.
Additionally, your Pokémon GO play should not inhibit the safety of anyone else. Please be cognizant of not impeding the operations of the Police or Fire Departments. From experience, you can reach the Downtown Ann Arbor Fire Department PokéStop from the 5th Avenue sidewalk. At this location, you are not blocking the drive and preventing the Fire Department from exiting their building in an emergency.
Also, be alert when following Pokémon, PokéStops, and Gyms. There have been reports of criminals targeting known Pokémon hotspots because they know phones will be accessible and people may be distracted.
There are certain places where it simply not appropriate to play Pokémon GO. For example the Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery in the Washington DC area have both requested no playing Pokémon GO. I would also add a similar ban on similar sites such as the 9/11 Memorial, other cemeteries, inside churches, etc.
Covenant Health Systems in Saginaw has declared their hospital a Pokémon GO free zone. I have not seen our local hospitals announce a ban, but please don’t go to the hospital just to play. Personally, I think Pokémon GO could be a great distraction inside a hospital for patients.
Obviously, anywhere that it is inappropriate to use your phone (such as during movies or live performances), it is inappropriate to play Pokémon GO.
Remember that business owners have not asked to have Pokémon, PokéStops, or Gyms on their property. While many businesses are welcoming Pokémon GO players, please be respectful to not interfere with their business transactions.
Also, please respect private property and don’t go traipsing through private property hunting for Pokémon. Just because a Pokémon, PokéStop, or Gym is located there on the map does not mean you are welcome.
Your Ann Arbor Pokémon GO Advice
Are you playing Pokémon GO in Ann Arbor? What tips do you have to share with readers?