It's safe to say that Pokémon have crossed the threshold from nerdy hobby to cultural norm — the Pokémon Go app experiences record downloads and every local store claims to be a Charizard hotspot. So, the question is: do you want to be a resident Pokémon master on campus? Of course you do! This guide will get you there (assuming the servers are working at the moment). So read on for a beginner's guide, super-cool tips and several debunked myths that would otherwise keep you from being the very best.

1. Finding Pokémon


“Pokémon Go” is all about catching cute little creatures while walking outside, and the game will dump you into its world without much instruction. Fortunately, on most college campuses, finding Pokémon will be easy. They’re stationed on GPS coordinates, and tend to spawn in populated areas. When out on a walk, typically it’s not necessary to look at your phone the whole time — just keep in in your hand. When a Pokémon is in range, your phone should buzz. It’s also good to hunt in new locations once in a while, as different Pokémon will spawn in different areas. Populated places, such as historic and downtown areas, are usually best. There are even Pokémon that only appear in certain regions of the world. While traveling, look out for Pokéstops that have cherry blossoms falling around them; this means that someone has placed a lure on the stop, and Pokémon will appear there about every five minutes until the lure wears off.

There’s also a “Nearby” tab in the lower-right that shows Pokémon near you. So what should you do if you see a Dragonite (if you don’t know what this is yet, you will soon) or something equally awesome on your list of nearby Pokémon? Well, hunting it down is an inexact science, unfortunately. The Nearby tab shows how close you are (three footprints = far, one footprint = very close), but gives no hints on the direction, meaning it’s necessary to play a game of “hot or cold” with the Pokémon. I’ve found that a methodical approach is best—stop freaking out about that Dragonite, pick a direction, walk in it and watch the number of footprints. This diagram by Reddit user DJToaster is helpful if you want to be hardcore. The game is glitchy, though, so resign yourself to Pokémon suddenly disappearing from the list and the GPS not working perfectly. DEBUNK TIME: Contrary to popular belief, a green “pulse” effect does not necessarily mean that you’re getting closer; such this theory is specious and probably wrong. 

Finally, eggs are an excellent way to get rare Pokémon, EXP and Stardust. You’ll occasionally get them from Pokéstops. They come in three varieties, depending on how far you have to walk before they hatch: 2km, 5km or 10km. 10km eggs are most likely to contain rare Pokémon, as shown in the previous link, but 2km eggs have good stuff too. It is possible to hatch eggs by driving or biking, but the game won’t count the distance if you’re going above ~20mph. Always have eggs in your incubator(s) — don’t get all scrambled and forget to restock ‘em once they hatch!

2. Catching Like A Pro


So you’ve finally encountered a Pokémon in the real world! Here are some advanced tips and tricks. First, Augmented Reality (e.g. seeing Pokémon through your phone camera) adds to the fun and can be used for snapping cute pics of a Pidgey standing on your roommate’s bed, but turning AR off saves battery and makes aiming much simpler (flip the AR on/off switch in upper right during the encounter). When the encounter begins, a “target” will appear around the Pokémon: a green circle means it’ll be easy to catch, and red means it will be difficult. You should use Berries on difficult catches to increase your odds, and diminish the chance that your target will run away in a puff of smoke. Aim when the target is smallest for more EXP and a better chance of catching the ‘mon. Another DEBUNK: It’s rumored that balls can be picked back up once you’ve thrown them — but this is hotly contested and probably not true. Also, practice your curveball ‘til you’re good! Swirl the ball around in a little circular motion just before throwing to gain extra XP. Don’t throw a ball while the Pokémon is attacking, and make each throw count because the ‘Mon could run away at any time.

3. Understanding Items (And The Store)


Items are gained primarily from Pokéstops, the blue markers on your map. Because they’re frequently stationed at important buildings and works of art, it is probable that your campus will have a LOT of them. Simply walk within range, tap the marker and spin the picture that comes up — bingo, shiny new items and fifty XP! Stops will refresh about every five minutes. At first, you’ll only get Pokéballs and an egg or two, but new stuff will become available as you level up. The space in your bag is limited, so make sure to use up some items like Berries before you run out of room.

Items can be purchased from the store, as well. Yeah… that’s how this app makes its money. You can buy various tools such as extra egg incubators, incense to attract Pokémon and extra storage space for Pokémon/items. Fortunately, there IS a way to get store-exclusive items without paying real money, and that is via the Defender Bonus. In the store, there’s a shield in the upper-right corner. Once you have some Pokémon stationed in gyms (the process of which is explained further below), tap the shield to receive coins and Stardust. The bonus resets in about a day and can be collected again, assuming you haven’t been kicked out by then. But you probably have been. Such is Pokélife. You can also get store stuff from leveling up, but, of course, the items you get are infrequent and limited. This list details which rare items are obtained at each level.

4. Becoming Powerful!


Each Pokémon you catch has a CP (Combat Point) value. This represents the Pokémon’s strength. Upon examination, you’ll see a little curved progress bar showing how far your Pokémon is to reaching its CP cap. The closer to the cap, the better, of course! Now let’s discuss how to make a strong Pokémon even stronger.

To build a strong team, you’ll need two things: Candy and Stardust. Stardust is received for a variety of in-game actions, and Candy is a species-specific commodity received for successful catches and transferring extra Pokémon to the Professor. You can raise a Pokémon’s CP at a cost of some Candy and Stardust. You can also evolve a Pokémon to a stronger form for a considerable amount of Candy. The best method is to catch as many Pokémon of one species as you can, then evolve the strongest of the lot. There’s also some controversy over whether to raise CP before or after evolving or whether it even makes a difference. One thing's for sure: doing it after ensures you can check to see your evolved Pokémon knows good moves before wasting Stardust on it (a good tip for advanced players).

Now that you’ve gotten the basics down, it’s time to gain experience points. You may have noticed large towers with Pokémon on top scattered around your map, typically on cool campus landmarks. These are gyms, and they’re inaccessible until you’ve reached level five. Beyond this, leveling up is important because it means that the Pokémon you catch will be stronger — so save up your Stardust until then. As a newbie, the best way to gain experience will be catching new Pokémon; once you’ve made it past level ten, you may want to use a technique called power leveling.

Did you think being the very best wouldn’t involve math? Well, it does. A lot of math. Here’s the advanced method. Evolving a Pokémon gives you a lot of XP. By using a Lucky Egg (which doubles your XP for thirty minutes) and evolving up to sixty weak, common Pokémon (like Pidgeys, Weedles, Caterpies and Rattatas), it’s possible to level up very quickly. Based on your number of Pokémon and candies, this ingenious online calculator will tell you how many evolutions you can perform in the thirty minute time span to maximize your sick XP gainz. Also, power extends beyond simple CP. For curious advanced players, this daunting spreadsheet has the info you need, and lists 'Mons from most to least powerful when taking "hidden stats" into consideration.

5. Cappin’ Gyms And Takin’ Names: A Guide


Upon reaching level five, you can join one of three teams: Team Valor, Team Instinct or Team Mystic. They are often referred to by their respective colors. These groups are in constant conflict over capturing key strategic points called “gyms.” As of right now, there is no gameplay advantage to picking any particular team. I recommend choosing the same team as a friend, if for no other reason than it will save you a lot of drama… and hey, you can work together! Do make sure to use proper etiquette when dealing with members of another team. Informal “trainer code” dictates that everyone should help each other if a rare Pokémon is around, regardless of allegiance.

Capturing gyms is extremely important because of the aforementioned Defender Bonus. It also gives you bragging rights as a trainer. Let’s go through how to claim a gym on campus. You’re able to fight all of the Pokémon stationed at a rival gym with six of your own. First, make sure the match is stacked in your favor. Each Pokémon and attack in the game has a “type.” Certain types are super effective on others, such as Water trumping Fire. You can use this chart to figure out favorable matchups. During the fight, attack by tapping on the rival Pokémon. Dodge by swiping to the left or right (the screen will flash yellow before your opponent attacks). When the blue bar fills up, tap and hold down to release an extra powerful attack. Multiple people can attack a gym at the same time, which makes the process a lot faster... so bring that aforementioned friend! Defeating a gym lowers its Prestige level. When Prestige drops to zero, the gym becomes unclaimed, so station a Pokémon of your own in there quickly or it might be sniped by someone else.

The gym is yours! Hooray! Now on to friendly gyms. A gym can only hold as many Pokémon as its level, so the first order of business will be fortifying your shiny new gym by training it. It’s similar to challenging, but training can only be done with one Pokémon. The goal of training is to increase the gym’s Prestige, which will increase its level, which will allow it to become an intimidating stronghold defended by up to ten Pokémon. Be sure to train friendly gyms whenever possible and add a Pokémon of your own if there’s an open slot. And that’s pretty much the unofficial goal of the game: level up, get strong, take gyms in the name of your team. It'll probably be a while before you can storm gyms yourself, but the fun part is the journey, so get walking!

6. Stay Safe


No one wants to be cited as an example in the evening news’s scaremongering “Pokémon Go” story — so use common sense. Stay aware of where you’re walking. NEVER play while driving. Respect private property. Drink water. Also, make sure to take special care at night — bring a friend and/or be very, very aware of your surroundings and safety.

We good? Ok. Now have fun.

7. Finally, Some Advanced Trainer Tips


- The game drains battery quickly. If you want to be the very best, buy a portable power bank.

- Force your Eevee to evolve into Flareon, Vaporeon or Jolteon by nicknaming it “Pyro,” “Rainer” or “Sparky,” respectively.

- The game has a built-in Battery Saver mode, but it has been known to cause the game to freeze, so use with caution.

- Incense spawns a ‘Mon every five minutes while standing still or every 200 meters while moving.

- If you have extra Lures, drop them at a local children’s hospital — this will really help kids who would love to play but are stuck in bed.

- Looking for a way to be awesome? Some shelters are encouraging people to volunteer as dog walkers while they hatch eggs! See if there’s any such program in your area.

- Glitches happen. Trolling the "Go" subreddit will help keep you informed on new problems and possible fixes.

- And finally… relax! The game is a great way to get outside, exercise and even meet new people. If you ever feel frustrated over the competitive aspect, remember the lighthearted spirit of the game, and of the Pokémon franchise itself. These strange little creatures have brought joy to so many people, so let's keep it positive.

Lead Image Credit: Giphy