Basic Guide to Playing Pokemon Go

Last Updated on 07/12/16

You probably came to this site because you thought it was for Niantic Inc., but nope! It's for Niantic City. But don't fret-- we understand you've got needs, so we've compiled a complete guide on how to play Pokemon Go and become the very best.


What we know so far:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s hard to miss that Pokemon GO has swept populations across the globe in a matter of days. Combined with Nintendo, Niantic Inc. released the much-anticipated free-to-play app on Android and iOS markets for on July 7th.

As players live their childhood dreams of becoming Pokemon trainers, fans across the country are partaking in this viral phenomenon, showing incredible popularity among fans from their mid-twenties to early-thirties who’ve grown up with the franchise. With the saturation of tragedy, violence, and social injustice against citizens throughout the country, emotionally-exhausted millenials turn to the nostalgic franchise as a new means of social activity.

The app features gameplay where players search for Pokemon across real GPS maps and toss Pokeballs at Pokemon shown against real backdrops via AR (augmented reality) using their smartphone cameras, as well as collecting items in real designated locations in their city, exploring new places and discovering landmarks, local businesses, and public art spaces. In the most densely populated areas, where Pokemon activity is most active, players witness dozens of fellow trainers playing alongside each other in search of collecting Pokemon.

And unsurprisingly, Pokemon Go has reportedly motivated an increase of thousands of players to walk several kilometers a day above their normal routine, which is great for physical fitness. Some people have even gone as far as used Pokemon Go as their go-to fitness app and jogging companion. (The app even records how many kilometers you’ve walked with the app open! Hell, bring your Fitbit with you and impress your friends.) Animal shelters are even encouraging trainers todonate their time to walking dogs for charity while playing.

With the level of activity, social interaction, and personal investment, it's impossible to say that Pokemon Go ISN'T a cultural sensation.

Official Pokemon Go Trailer

The general public has also benefited from the phenomenon experiencing a surge in steady traffic to local businesses, bars and breweries, and historic landmarks (Business owners, take note!) Meanwhile, Nintendo Stocks has increased in $9 billion in value, raising its total market cap to $28 billion. It's become so popular that it's quickly surpassing Twitter in daily active users.

The game also features an optional wearable device, "Pokemon Go Plus", and are priced at $35. Pre-orders are currently sold out at this time.

It is worth mentioning that major trends in gaming aren't particularly new. Even with the phenomenon of the Pokemon Go, gamers have always observed trends in the latest online obsession (see: Overwatch), as well as being the latest edition to Pokemon's long line of games in the past two decades (circa 1996). Players are now a spectacle for the confused general public to witness due to the fact that it involves going outside rather than sitting in front of a monitor or TV. (Also, if you've got any misguided fellow adults throwing shade, just remember that you're having fun no one's gonna get you down.)

Of course, this latest Pokemon craze isn’t all sunshine and lollipops and has observed some unexpected results. People have discovered some unpleasant surprises like a dead body, as well as having becoming victims of armed robberies. We advise people to practice safety by sticking to populated areas, observing their surroundings, and playing in groups.

Overall, it’s an incredibly fun way to go outside, hang out with friends, and discover places in the city you hadn’t discovered before. Don’t be overwhelmed! It’s a lot of information, but it’ll come to you quickly. Thankfully, we’re here to provide a basic and comprehensive guide with all the helpful information we know so far.

How to play:

Welcome, Pokemon Trainer!

In order to play, first download the app on your Android or iOS smartphone. After downloading, you will be greeted by Professor Willow and asked to create your avatar to get things started.

Professor Willow being hella swole and greeting you to the game, and one of the characters we created.

But before we continue, we encourage players to enjoy the game and play using some basic safety guidelines. Let’s talk about common sense.

Safety Guide:

  • Know your surroundings and pay attention while walking so you don’t fall or bump into anything (or anyone).

  • Pay attention to roads when crossing streets and getting off busses.

  • Do not drive or be on wheels, period, while playing. We’re talking about skateboards, bikes, scooters-- you get the idea.

  • Do not go anywhere you shouldn’t usually be going, i.e. private property, dark alleys, sketchy areas.

  • Play in groups if possible. There’s strength in numbers.

  • Don’t harass other players-- or other people for that matter-- and know when to back off if someone doesn’t want to be bothered.

  • Always practice precaution when interacting with strangers and who you share your location with online.

  • Tell your kids to practice stranger-danger to avoid any suspicious individuals, and set limits as to how far they can play and accompany them as much as possible.

  • Always stay hydrated! Not drinking enough water while out and about can lead to terrible consequences.

  • As long as you follow these safety guidelines, likely the worst that can happen is that the only thing you run into are a bunch of Zubats.

    Once you’ve created your trainer, you’re set to go outside and start capturing Pokemon. The first thing you’ll do is choose a starter Pokemon. You’ll be given a choice of First Generation starters including Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. Congrats! You’ve got your first Pokemon.

    Pro-tip: If you don’t want ANY of the three, walk away from the spot and you’ll activate Pikachu!

    How to locate Pokemon:

  • You’ll notice places with moving leaves across the map. That’s a general indication of where Pokemon are most active.

  • You can locate nearby Pokemon by tapping the icon on the bottom-right and observing how many “feet” are indicated below them.

  • Each "foot" represents roughly a 100-meter long distance.

  • Three feet indicates that it’s further away, two feet indicates that you’re getting closer, and one foot means you’re really close.

  • It goes from left-to-right, the closest being on the top left and the furthest being on the bottom-right.

  • You can tap any of the listed Pokemon to focus on finding that specific one as you travel across the map.

  • Pokemon will typically show up in settings they reside in, i.e. Pikachu will be found in parks, water types will by the water, etc.

  • Pro-tip: Use Incense from your items to attract more Pokemon to you up to 30 minutes!

    How to capture Pokemon:

    That time a rattata showed up on my desk.

    As you walk around, you’ll come across a few Pokemon in your radius. Once you spot them, tap on the Pokemon and begin capturing by tossing Pokeballs until you’ve caught your new pal.

    Once you locate a Pokemon, tap on it to initiate capturing!

    Throw a Pokeball as directly as you can until captured.

  • Hold down on the Pokeball until the highlighted circle decreases in size. Pokemon are most easily caught when the circle is at its smallest.

  • The color of the circle indicates the level of difficulty in capturing the Pokemon (Green = Easy, Yellow = Moderate, Red = Difficult).

  • The strength of Pokemon are indicated in CP (combat points). The higher the CP, the stronger the Pokemon and the more difficult it is to capture.

  • The higher level your trainer is, the higher level of CP Pokemon will typically have.

  • Use incense or hang out at a PokeStop with an active lure module to attract more Pokemon to you.

  • For more difficult Pokemon, throw them a RazzBerry or use a higher-level Pokeball, if possible.

  • Hold down on the Pokeball and spin a circle to throw a “curve ball” for more EXP!

  • Pro-tip: Turn off AR mode while capturing Pokemon, as it'll cut down lag and make them easier to capture.


    If you’ve run out of Pokeballs (or other items), don’t fret! The city is crawling with PokeStops at popular gathering spots, businesses, and landmarks where you can collect more items by walking up to them and spinning these checkpoints. Occasionally you’ll pick up other items like incense, potions, revives, and eggs! Of course, if you're impatient, there's also the "freemium" aspect of the game where you can purchase Pokecoins to obtain items via real hard earned cash.

    Incense: "Incense with a mysterious fragrance that lures wild Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes."

    Lucky Egg: "A Lucky Egg that's filled with happiness! Earns double XP for 30 minutes."

    Egg Incubator: "A device that incubates an Egg as you walk until it is ready to hatch. Breaks after three uses."

    Lure Module: "A module that attracts Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes. Other people around the PokéStop can also benefit from the effect."

    Lure modules:

    Not running into enough Pokemon? Well luckily for you, all PokeStops have the potential to become “lures”. Lures are activated by the “lure modules” among playable items, and most of the time, you’ll find some generous players activating a bunch where trainers from all over can travel to that spot and share the increased flow of Pokemon to capture. You’ll find handfuls of them across populated areas and are likely bump into dozens of other trainers and Pokemon fans to interact with.

    Pokemon Go can be an incredibly social experience, and you might make friends with other groups along the way at lures and while searching for the same Pokemon. You’ll be surprised how many other players will end up at the same lure.

    How to train Pokemon:

    As mentioned before, the strength of Pokemon is determined by the amount of CP (combat points) it contains. However, there has yet been much of a solid explanation as to exactly how the CP system works, despite the sheer amount of discussions and observations shared online. (Players have gone as far as create spreadsheets logging CP ratios when evolving Pokemon.) But while we're still determining the method behind the CP-based madness and the actual methodology of training Pokemon, here's what we know so far:

  • Most importantly, the higher level the trainer, the stronger Pokemon will appear.

  • As stated before, holding down the Pokeball while capturing Pokemon will indicate the level of difficulty to catch it. Pokemon with red rings will typically be stronger as opposed to Pokemon with green or yellow rings.

  • Pokemon that are evolved via candies manually typically gain higher CP than Pokemon further along the evolution chain are in the wild.

  • Selectively choose which Pokemon is the strongest among duplicates, and transfer the rest to Professor Willow.

  • The arch located above the Pokemon will indicate its maximum potential in gaining CP via power-ups. Focus on Pokemon with the most potential.

  • Power-up your Pokemon using candies and stardust. Keep in mind that the amount required increases with each power-up.

  • Gain experience quickly by training at Pokemon gyms and battling other Pokemon.

  • Pro-tip: Save your candies and stardust for power-ups further along in the evolution chain for higher gains in CP and finish off the curve towards the end.

    How to evolve your Pokemon:

    Contrary to what you may find online, determining which evolution an eevee will evolve into (Flareon, Vaporeon, Jolteon) has no specific system and is completely random.

  • For those familiar, many Pokemon have stages of “evolution” as they increase in level.

  • As you collect Pokemon, you will receive candies and stardust that can be used to evolve or power-up Pokemon. Capturing yields 3, while transferring yields 1.

  • You can evolve your Pokemon once you’ve collected enough candies from captures of the same Pokemon.

  • Evolution will exponentially increase your Pokemon’s CP, usually more than Pokemon found in the wild.

  • You can also increase your Pokemon’s CP by powering up using candies and stardust collected from capturing Pokemon.

  • Evolving your Pokemon also gives you mad EXP, so be sure to use any Lucky Eggs you may have to double your gain.

  • Fun Fact: Pidgeys, weedles, and caterpies require only 12 candies to evolve to their next stage, whereas you need a whopping 400 Magikarp candies to evolve a Gyarados.

    How to gain EXP:

  • As you collect Pokemon, you will increase in EXP (experience) points!

  • Your level and experience are indicated below your avatar on the bottom-left. As you gain EXP, you’ll increase in level. The higher the level, the higher CP Pokemon you encounter will be.

  • You can level by capturing Pokemon, spinning PokeStops, evolving Pokemon, and transferring Pokemon to Professor Willow. (This will also help you obtain candies for specific Pokemon!)

  • Collecting new Pokemon in your Pokedex will also give you EXP.

  • Battle or train at Pokemon gyms! Training at your team’s gym will help increase your EXP, while battling and winning at rival gyms will give you a greater boost in EXP.

  • Here's a run down of different ways to gain EXP (Thanks to VocalInsanity via Reddit):

    100 XP – Pokemon caught

    500 XP – New pokemon

    10 XP – Curve ball

    10 XP – Nice throw

    50 XP – Great Throw

    100 XP – Excellent throw

    50 XP – Checking in at a PokeStop

    100 XP – Battling an opposing team’s pokemon trainer at a gym

    150 XP – Beating an opposing team’s Pokemon trainer at a gym

    50 XP – Beat a pokemon in training (a gym already your team’s color) at a gym

    200 XP – Hatch a pokemon

    500 XP – Evolve a pokemon

    Pro-tip: Use a Lucky Egg to double your EXP when training, evolving, transferring, and etc. in one session. It’ll help you jump levels quickly.

    Choose a faction:

    After a little bit of playing and once you've reached level 5, you will be asked to join a faction. Team Mystic (Blue), Team Valor (Red), and Team Instinct (Yellow) represented by Pokemon's first generation of legendaries: Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos accordingly.

    Depending on which team you choose, you will be joining other players in training Pokemon and compete by capturing Pokemon Gyms at designated areas.

    Take the popular choice and join the illustrious legion of Team Mystic?

    Rise against the status quo and join the ambitious Team Valor?

    Or go against the grain and rebel as Team Instinct?

    In the end, we're just a bunch of nerdy Pokemon fans looking having fun with finally fulfilling our dreams of embarking our journey as trainers. No matter what team, we continue to support each other to have the most fun experience possible, so show your team pride by practicing good sportsmanship! Good trainers always respect their peers and rivals and aim to support each other up rather than tear each other down. And of course, the whole point of the lore behind all three legendaries was to exist in harmony. (It's what Lugia would've wanted.)

    How to conquer a gym:

  • Across several locations, Pokemon Gyms will show up on the map as conspicuous glowing towers in the color of the team that owns that location.

  • Battle your Pokemon by selecting a team, and once the battle begins, tap on your Pokemon to attack until your opponents HP reaches 0.

  • Hold down on your Pokemon to initiate a Special Attack. (The level of damage is indicated in Attack Points in your Pokemon's description.)

  • Evade attacks by swiping your phone, especially when your opponent is deploying a Special Attack. Special Attacks take time, which makes this the perfect opportunity to be swift.

  • Gyms are captured by battling the Pokemon that are left there by other trainers. After each win, that gym’s prestige will be brought down until it decreases in level. Once their prestige is at 0, your winning team then claims the gym.

  • nce a gym is captured, players are to leave a Pokemon to protect the gym’s prestige.

  • You can raise your gym’s prestige (and your EXP) by training at the gym, and as with each level increase, another player on the same team can leave behind an additional Pokemon and make it that much more difficult to take over.

  • The goal is to claim and maintain as many gyms in your team’s color across the map as possible. Every player is allowed to capture or place Pokemon at multiple gyms (but said specific Pokemon can only be used at one at a time).

  • Fun Fact: We’ve been observing the 12th Street BART gym and it’s been an all-out turf war between all teams, Mystic, Valor, and Instinct taking turns owning that gym. And from what we can tell, Instinct is battling hard to stand their ground and we’re impressed.

    How to hatch a PokeEgg:

    Like previous Pokemon games, PokeEggs are hatched by walking certain distances-- however, unlike its predecessors, Pokemon Go requires the use of an Incubator per egg to begin progress. (Note: PokeEggs are NOT the same as Lucky Eggs!)

  • You can view your collection of PokeEggs under a tab under Pokemon.

  • Eggs are occasionally obtained along with items collected at PokeStops.

  • To hatch an egg, trainers must select an egg to apply an incubator and walk the amount of kilometers listed beside the egg. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, 1 kilometer equals roughly 0.62137 miles.)

  • Each trainer begins with one Incubator available for infinite use, whereas other incubators obtained via PokeStops and the item shop typically last up to 3 uses.

  • Distances required to hatch eggs vary between 2.0, 5.0, and 10.0 kilometers.

  • Trainers can hold up to 9 eggs at a time. Once the maximum is reached, you will not recieve any more until space becomes available.

  • Types of Pokemon vary depending on what distance is required for eggs to hatch. Naturally, the longer the distance, the higher value of the Pokemon's rarity.

  • Here is an estimated guide of what types of Pokemon are hatched according to distance

    Pro-tip: The app will not track your progress if you travel any faster than ~20 kilometers per mile, so riding your bike, taking the train, or driving isn't going to help you hatch a PokeEgg.

    How to save battery life:

    And lastly, for the few who somehow haven't realized this, keeping your phone and GPS on for an extended period of time SERIOUSLY drains your phone battery. Luckily, here are some reminders on keeping your power going.

  • urn on "Battery Saver" in your settings on the Pokemon Go app. (Pictured above)

  • Turn off your AR setting while catching Pokemon (which also cuts down lag and helps make them easier to catch)

  • Dim your screen. Screen brightness in general, Pokemon Go or not, makes a huge difference in your battery life.

  • Turn off any other apps running in the background.

  • Bring your phone charger with you.

  • Better yet, invest into a portable battery if you don't already have one!

  • Fun Fact: If you see someone holding a smartphone with a USB cord connected to a portable battery, they’re likely playing Pokemon Go.

    Additionally, there's been a rumor that Pokemon Go uses Google Maps API and, by downloading offline Google Maps of your area, you can preserve battery life. Unfortunately, a Google Maps engineer confirmed over Twitter this not to be true. Sorry to disappoint!

    Our Pokedex so far:

    Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Caterpie, Weedle, Pidgey, Pidgeotto, Rattata, Raticate, Spearow, Fearow, Ekans, Pikachu, Sandshrew, Nidoran (female and male), Clefairy, Vulpix, Bellsprout, Jiggypuff, Zubat, Oddish, Venonat, Meowth, Psyduck, Mankey, Growlithe, Tentacool, Slowpoke, Doduo, Dodrio, Ghastly, Haunter, Haunter, Crabby, Rhyhorn, Scyther, Voltorb, Electrode, Exeggcute, Cubone, Onyx, Goldeen, Staryu, Omanyte (PRAISE HELIX), Aerodactyl, Tauros, Paras, Magikarp, Eevee, Snorlax, Pinsir, Koffing, Polywag, Ponyta, Shellder, Lapras, Dratini, and growing.

    Currently, there are a total of 147 out of 150 of the possible First Generation Pokemon to capture so far, including the first eeveelutions.

    Of course, most Pokemon are there for the taking as long as you know where to look. We’ve even tried our luck captured over 70 different Pokemon in the last few days!

    As the game and Pokemon community grows, Niantic continues to develop more features such as trading, a PvP battling system, possibly communication between players, and other general improvements to the app via software updates.

    We hope this guide was helpful and wish you the best of luck on your Pokemon journey to become the very best! Happy training!