Pokemon Go: Beginner’s Guide

Plan accordingly

(Now that I’m an editor, I can fix an error I made regarding catching creatures. Muahaha, etc.)

Oh, hello there. I understand you’re one of the new trainers who’s going to be assisting Professor Willow with his research. I’ve been working with him since May, and I thought I could pass along some of the things I’ve learned to help get you started. (Pokémon GO can be fun, but it isn’t documented very well. If you’re new to the game, here are some tips I’ve learned from my time with the beta.) 

1.) It’s a battery hog.  Plan accordingly.  

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Pokémon GO uses your device’s GPS to give you a map of your real-world location, updating constantly. If you use the Augmented Reality (AR) features, the app will also require access to your device’s camera. This drains your phone’s battery life very rapidly, and my device can drain from a full charge to nothing within about an hour and a half of use. It’s also in constant communication with the game’s servers, so you may need to watch your data limit as well. There are several ways you can mitigate your power drain, but what I’ve noticed works best is to simply turn off GPS and make sure the app is fully closed when I’m not using it. It’s also never a bad idea to carry around a portable USB charger, and you can get them fairly inexpensively if you do a little shopping around.

2.) Catch everything to level up faster.

Unlike more traditional Pokémon games, GO’s trainer has their own level in the game, and that level gates access to things like gym battles and other, more advanced features. The only way to raise this trainer level is by catching (or hatching- we’ll get to that later) Pokémon. You’ll gain 100 experience points for each successful capture, with a bonus of 500 experience for a new species. What you may have noticed is that each capture also awards different in-game currencies: candy that’s specific to that creature’s evolutionary line, and Stardust, which you can think of as a general creature enhancer. You can use these to power up a favored Pokémon, but you may have also noticed you’ll need a lot to evolve them. This isn’t like a regular Pokémon game where you can catch one of everything and stuff them in the PC box forever; to evolve your creatures you’ll need to catch a lot of the same type and choose your best specimen before spending your candy and dust on it. There’s only one reason you might not want to go after everything you see…

3.) It’s really easy to run out of balls.

It's not a penis joke, it's a testicle joke.  Totally different.

Since your primary method of interaction with Pokémon GO is going to be flicking balls at Pokémon, it’ll benefit you to get as good at this minigame as you can, as quickly as you can. It’s very possible to miss throwing a ball at a Pokémon, and every time you do, it’ll cost you one of your limited supply of Pokéballs. If you miss a lot, or if the Pokémon you’re after evades your throw or is stronger than your basic balls can handle, you may find yourself running out quickly. There is an in-game store where you can buy more, but that may cost you some real-life money. Fortunately, you can also get more by making sure to:

4.) Visit landmarks as often as possible.

Pokémon GO makes use of the tech Niantic developed for their previous app, Ingressand makes real-world locations into landmarks called PokéStops you can visit to get a bonus in your game. In my suburban neighborhood, the app marks churches, parks, and the local post office as PokéStops, though they can also be restaurants, public art, or pretty much anything you can imagine. Visiting one of these PokéStops will change the marker on your map from a cube into a Pokéball shape, and rapidly swiping across the center circle will allow you to collect some items. Usually this means you’ll get a few Pokéballs, but you may occasionally get some healing items, revives or a Pokémon egg. This changes the landmark’s color from light blue to purple, and you’ll need to wait a while (between 15-30 minutes, in my experience) for the landmark to recharge. This is important because:

5.)There’s no way to heal without using items.


Although you don’t have to battle wild Pokémon to catch them, you’ll unlock the ability to challenge gyms at trainer level 5. Depending on your local competition, you may find your team taking a beating and wondering how to get them back in top shape, since the real world doesn’t have any free Pokémon centers. Well, the bad news is right there in the header: you can’t heal your Pokémon without using one-shot items. You’ll get several +20 HP potions when you reach level 5, but it’s a good idea to hoard as many as you can to heal after a gym battle. It’s also better to use your potions rather than letting your Pokémon faint, because Revive items are far harder to come by than potions.  

6.) The catching minigame is a bit counterintuitive.

Remember up there where I said it’s easy to run out of Pokéballs? Well, the minigame isn’t hard to do, but you can maximize your catches by minimizing the ring that appears while you’re preparing to throw a ball. It seems like the larger the ring is, the better your chances should be of making a catch, but that’s not the case. It’s better to have the smallest circle possible when you’re going after a Pokémon, and you’ll even receive a small experience bonus if you get the timing right or if you throw a curveball. Practice on those Ratattas and Pidgeys so that when you come across a Chansey, you’re ready for it.

7.) Longer walks mean rarer spawns.

Pokémon GO sets your home location when you first start it up, and that’s where you can choose between your three starters. Going forward, it will consider that to be your base of operations, similar to your home town in a more traditional Pokémon game. Just as in those games, that means that more common Pokémon will be found near your base of operations, with more exotic creatures appearing when you travel farther afield. You shouldn’t have to go very far to find interesting creatures, and taking a walk every day will let you encounter different creatures on your path regardless of where you go. That being said, it’s worth pointing out that…

8.) The game doesn’t know whether you’re walking or not.

Although Pokémon GO‘s stated intention is to encourage kids to get out and exercise, the app doesn’t actually know whether you’re walking, driving, or on public transportation. If you don’t have to drive yourself somewhere, you can use the app while you’re a passenger and you might see some exotic creatures on your travels. You’ll have to tap on the creatures quickly, but once the catching minigame has started, you can take as long as you want to try and catch that flaming horse that you actually blew by at 45 MPH. Keep in mind that the natural jostling that occurs while in a vehicle may throw off your aim and cause you to miss with your Pokéballs more frequently, so in more ways than one, your mileage may vary. Driving around with the app open can also help you…

9.) Don’t forget about your eggs.


Whenever you activate a Pokéstop, there’s a chance that you’ll find a Pokémon egg in with the other items. You hatch these eggs by walking, and each egg will let you know how far you’ll have to go to hatch it. What the game doesn’t tell you is that you’ll have to put the egg into an incubator before any distance you cover counts towards it hatching. You have one incubator in your inventory by default, and you can purchase additional, temporary incubators that can be used to work on hatching multiple eggs at once. Eggs are on the Pokémon page on their own separate tab, so make sure that you always have an egg in your incubator as long as you have the app open and are moving around.  

10.) Keep an open mind. 

Pokémon GO has a lot of potential, and it’ll be interesting to see if Nintendo and Niantic can live up to the expectations of fans. Some of the things they’re talking about in future updates include the ability to trade Pokémon, and potentially even transfer them to the mainline Pokémon games like Sun and Moon. In the meantime, there’s a lot about the app that isn’t quite ready for primetime. It may just be my phone, but for me right now, the app is unstable, and I usually need to reset it a couple of times an hour to make sure that Pokémon actually spawn near me rather than just appearing as unclickable targets on my map. Your experience may vary depending on your hardware, but you’ll probably have to reboot the software fairly frequently to get the most out of it. The crazy thing is, it’s kinda worth it. Finding a Ratatta in a pile of garbage is just Fun.

I hope this has been helpful.  If you have any questions, leave `em in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. You may also want to read up on the official site 


Kevin McClusky
I'm a longtime member of Destructoid, and you may have known me in a prior life as Qalamari. In other words, hi. I've been here a long time. There's a good chance I'm older than you. I write freelance articles for other publications, so you might see my name elsewhere occasionally. Disclosure: I wrote a paid testimonial for the Speedify VPN service in April 2017.