Understanding Pokémon Go and how teachers can use Pokémon Go in the classroom.
Pokémon Go has taken over since it was released across the world in July, with over 100 million Google Play downloads alone, recorded just four weeks after its release. The phenomenon has grown from a highly-anticipated game release to an all-consuming, socially-enabling sensation. As teachers, it can sometimes be hard to understand the latest crazes and technological trends, but the good news is that Pokémon GO is incredibly useful as a teaching tool and introduction to many different topics.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game created by Niantic. It is played on mobile devices including phones and tablets and allows users to ‘catch’ different types of Pokémon by travelling around real places. The game incorporates a map of the user’s current real-world location and generates different types of Pokémon based on the type of area the player is in. These maps also include real landmarks as Pokéstops and gyms.
How does it work?
Augmented reality uses real-time location data to incorporate virtual features into real-life situations. The premise behind Pokémon GO is to allow users to experience the journey and lifestyle of the characters in the original Pokémon series.
Each user, known as a ‘trainer’ has a profile, name, avatar and Pokémon collection, and will eventually be prompted to choose a team. There are three teams to choose from; Mystic, Instinct and Valor. It is worth bearing in mind that many players can be quite loyal and competitive when it comes to their Pokémon GO teams.
Users travel around real-life locations, catching Pokémon as they spawn, Pokémon are caught using Pokéballs, which are virtually thrown at the creature on the screen, this can take a number of tries until the user is well-practised and with a limited number of Pokéballs available to begin with, patience is definitely required!
Once a Pokémon has been caught, it is added to the user’s Pokédex, which is a library of all Pokémon owned by the player. Players can rename their Pokémon and feed them candy to build up their strength and evolve them. Candy is made by exchanging spare Pokémon of the same basic species, candy made from other Pokémon will only increase the power of that particular species of Pokémon.
Gameplay continues with the strengthening of Pokémon and battling of another users’ Pokémon. By battling, users can take control of gyms, which are usually found at major landmarks. Pokéstops are frequently found in populated locations and are the place to go to gain more Pokéballs, potions, eggs and other useful items.
Why has it gone Viral?
Pokémon GO did not have a huge marketing budget and neither Niantic nor Nintendo pushed the boat out on promotion, yet the game still reached the positions of “most downloaded” and “top grossing” game within the first month of release.
The primary reason for Pokémon Go’s success is the ability to fulfil a big childhood fantasy. For many people, the Pokémon anime was a staple childhood series and being able to life the lifestyle of main characters Ash, Brock and Misty was a dream for many fans. With Pokémon GO, the ability to travel around towns, cities and countryside, catching different types of Pokémon is now real. By using augmented reality, the game delves even deeper than generic video games by allowing the use of real locations and areas, rather than computer-generated maps.
Secondly, Pokémon GO is free to download and install, meaning that more young people have access to it, compared to games requiring purchase. Although in-game purchases are a feature of the game, they are not necessary to progress or gain levels and failing to spend any real money will not hinder gameplay at all.
Where are Pokémon found?
The types of Pokémon available depends on the users’ location and the time of day. Pokémon are separated into different types, each type ‘preferring’ a particular type of area, or ‘biome’. Biomes include grassy areas, sandy areas, hot and cold areas, and residential areas. Pokémon are typically found in these areas;
- Fire types – rural neighbourhoods, hotter areas and beaches.
- Water types – rivers, streams, lakes and harbours.
- Grass types – farms, fields and parks.
- Bug types – farmland, forests and nature reserves.
- Rock types – large buildings, carpark structures, quarries and train stations.
- Electric types – dry areas, schools and industrial areas.
- Fighting types – sport stadiums and centres and larger gyms.
- Flying types – woodland, forests and grassy areas.
- Dragon types – only found at ‘places of interest’ such as landmarks.
- Ghost types – usually found at night-time in residential areas, but also found near churches and cemeteries.
- Ice types – Icy and snowy places, large bodies of water and occasionally grassy areas.
- Psychic types – grassy areas, residential areas at night and close to hospitals.
What are the Rare Pokémon?
Pokémon types vary from the extremely common Pidgey and Rattata, based on the UK population of real-life pigeons and rats, to region specific Pokémon, which are only available in specific countries. There are six species which have not yet been seen in-game, these are;
Fan speculation is that these Pokémon are being saved for special events, to re-invent enthusiasm for the game. Although no official statement has been released on the subject.
The rarest, yet possible-to-catch Pokémon are Venosaur, Charizard, Blastoise, Clefable, Tauros, Omestar and Dragonite. These are known as ‘epic’ Pokémon and are extremely rare.
A Brief Glossary
- Pokémon – Creatures caught within the game, separated into types, evolutions and species.
- Trainer – In-game characters, also known as Pokémon Trainers, also used to refer to real-life players.
- Pokéball – Used to catch Pokémon, can be found at Pokéstops and are available to purchase in-game using real money.
- Potion – Used to restore and increase a Pokémon’s HP during battles.
- Egg – Contains a Pokémon, these are stored in incubators and hatch when a designated distance has been walked.
- Incense – Items placed by users which lure Pokémon to a specific place, increasing the likelihood of catching them.
- Candy – made by exchanging spare Pokémon, each type of candy only works on its respective Pokémon type.
- Evolution – Beach type of Pokémon has the ability to evolve into a superior incarnation, candy is used to speed up evolutions.
- Gym – Major public landmarks where Trainers battle each other to take control of the gym and increase their team’s level.
- Pokéstop – common stops throughout populated areas where trainers can receive a range of items including Pokéballs, potions and eggs.
- Lure – An item which can be placed by users in a public place, which attracts Pokémon to the area.
Pokémon GO Lesson ideas
The introduction of Pokémon GO and widespread nature of augmented reality in gaming has brought many ethical, educational and moral subjects into the spotlight. These subjects can easily be introduced into the classroom as discussion points or as an introduction to certain techniques and practices.
Mathematics Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Pokémon GO uses time and distance to determine almost every aspect of the game, from which Pokémon are generated, to when an egg will hatch. These can be used as the basis for calculations, formulas and time differences.
- The Pokédex has information about the weight and height of each Pokémon, which can be used as a starting point for comparisons, differences and the calculation of mass or volume.
- In-game purchases are available, this can be used to calculate amounts, change and values.
English Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- The game has been reported on hundreds of times, this is a great resource for comparing tone, audience and writing styles.
- For younger students, journal entries from the perspective of their Trainer may be engaging.
- Writing reviews about the game is suitable for almost any age.
- Discussion-based pieces can be based on a range of Pokémon GO aspects; safety aspects, use in class or animal welfare, for example.
Media Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Have students watch an episode of the original Pokémon anime series and have them discuss the anime genre.
- Discuss the use of aspects such as colour, tone and music to convey the story and personalities of the characters.
- Compare how modern-day incarnations of Pokémon, or anime in general have changed over the past 20 years.
Computer Science and Technology Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- An introduction for augmented reality and treasure-hunt style games.
- Have students design their own game which could be used in conjunction with augmented reality.
- Develop a database to store data about collected Pokémon.
Science Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Discuss how different habitats are suitable for different species, as well as adaptation to surroundings.
- Use the Pokémon evolution system as an introduction to the theory of evolution.
- Discuss mass, height and weight of different Pokémon types.
- Discuss how specific Pokémon are effective against each other and use this as a basis for instinct and food chain discussions.
P.E. Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Place Pokémon images around the area and have students race to them as you shout their names. It may be best to include the names on the images for students who may be unfamiliar with them.
- Use the three team names; Valor, Instinct and Mystic as team names within class.
P.H.S.E. Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Discuss the fears people have about the game and use this is a starting topic for personal safety.
- Have students create a document outlining the most important things for players to remember.
- Discuss how parents feel about the game and introduce differing opinions and healthy disagreements.
Religious Education Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Discuss how the use of religious landmarks within the game has affected people and how religion has impacted the game.
- Use the evolution system to discuss evolution and creationist beliefs.
History Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Use historical landmarks within the game as a starting point for discussing local history.
- Use the Pokémon game series to introduce and create timelines.
- Discuss how historical events and landmarks are used in the game and the moral repercussions.
Art Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Ask students to draw their favourite Pokémon
- Use the original series and games to discuss anime and manga art styles and artists.
- Invite students to create their own avatar, without the restrictions within the game’s process.
Music Pokémon GO Lesson Ideas
- Use Pokémon anime and games to discuss the use of music in games and series to create emotions, tension and atmosphere.
- Find the sheet music for the original theme song and organise an arrangement for the class to perform it.
- Ask students to create a piece of music to reflect a character or Pokémon’s personality or feelings.