Pokémon GO are two words you're hearing a lot, but what do they mean? And why are there children (and OK, grown-ups) wandering your neighborhood glued to their phones?
First, a refresher: Pokémon (or pocket monsters) are fictional creatures developed in Japan that inspired Nintendo video games, trading cards, and even TV cartoons starting in the late 1990s and stretching through today. The adorable, yellow, 20-year-old Pikachu, pictured above, is probably the most recognizable of the gang.
Enter Pokémon GO in July 2016. The free Smartphone app is like a scavenger hunt, superimposing images of the characters over images of players' real locations. Users can actually see creatures appearing in their homes and on streets from their screens because the app uses cameraphones and GPS.
The Pokémon GO app vaguely instructs players where to go to find the collectible critters--the more footprints underneath a character's icon, the farther away the player is from it. But when a player's close, she sees just one footprint and gets notified with a buzzing phone that a Pokémon is nearby. There are also designated areas all across the country for picking up supplies and fun facts, called Pokéstops. The goal is to track down all of the various Pokémon creatures (and there are a LOT), capture them, and then make them the best they can be by performing certain actions in the game, including battling other players' Pokémon at designated virtual gyms. The result: kids and adults alike walk around staring at their iPhones and Androids with very specific (though odd-looking to bystanders) destinations.
Just days after Pokémon GO's release, it's already been downloaded on more than 5% of all Android phones in the U.S., and it may overtake Twitter's app popularity, according to Business Insider. Those who praise the game like that it motivates video game-loving children to leave the house and get exercise. Unfortunately, though, there have already been a number of complaints about the app.
For starters, homeowners have taken to social media to grumble about trespassers on their property searching for and battling Pokémon. Players, themselves, have gotten into accidents because they were so focused on their phones while they were out playing. The app is believed to have facilitated robberies, according to BuzzFeed, and it even can be used for kidnappings, since players can spend money to lure the characters to certain locations, which can in turn attract other young players.
Still, the addictiveness of the game means the Pokémon GO frenzy isn't likely to fade soon, especially since Niantic Labs, the software development company behind the app and its unbranded augmented reality mobile game predecessor, Ingress, has announced new features are being added. But get the kids and grandkids to follow these safety tips from the Philadelphia Police Department to enjoy the craze without incident.
See Pokémon GO in action below so you know exactly what it is:
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