For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Pokémon is the story of a young boy who abandons his mother to go on an adventure with his best friend, an electric dog called Pikachu. On his quest to cram all of the Pokémon into tiny plastic balls, he befriends strange men in forests and routinely encourages the animals he enslaves to brutally maim and immolate one another in battle.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game in which you, a physical human made of hot flesh, must walk around the real world catching these virtual creatures. They pop up all over the place, visible through the camera of your phone and cleverly overlaid on to the real world so that they appear to be loitering near tube stations, coffee shops, living rooms and public toilets.
The in-game world appears as a bucolic version of Google Maps, and you move your avatar around it not by pressing buttons but by actually walking from place to place. You might even get fit if you’re not careful. Different locations yield different types of Pokémon, so it’s worth moving around. Explore Regent’s Park and you’ll find some leafy-lookin fellas. Take a trip down to the Southbank and you’ll start spotting the odd Magikarp.
Chuck a Pokéball at one of these things and you’ll add them to your burgeoning collection. Visit local landmarks and you can restock on balls and other useful items. Certain significant landmarks are designated as Pokémon Gyms, where players can do battle with their Pokémon to claim and bolster ownership of the site.
For example, I’ve just come from the Leadenhall Building, where my level 583 Pidgeot absolutely ruined some poor woman’s Bulbasaur, weakening the hold her team had on the gym. Pokémon Go is pretty much Foursquare, which allowed people to become the mayor of their local Caffe Nero, crossed with cockfighting.
There’s no plot and very little strategy, and it requires zero previous knowledge of the Pokémon games. Pokémon Go is largely pointless and barely gratifying, but like so many terrible things that aren’t worth your time, it’s inexplicably compelling and everybody’s doing it.
It’s fundamentally a fascinating and novel concept too: a game that can only be played by going outdoors for a stroll, and one that’s inherently social in its central mechanic of capturing and keeping hold of real world locations in your neighbourhood.
An overnight phenomenon, Pokémon Go has just become the biggest US mobile game in history. Server issues have meant that Nintendo is gradually rolling the game out across regions, with the UK app store expected to receive it soon.
Read more: How to get Pokémon Go in the UK
The 4 Most Inappropriate Places People Have Been Catching Pokémon
caught like seven magikarp on the way to work already pic.twitter.com/c3EqoYaXc4— Steve Hogarty (@misterbrilliant) July 11, 2016
While driving along the M3
This Magikarp appeared on the steering wheel of a Hyundai i10 as it drove through the town of Frimley along the M3 heading into central London. It goes without saying that driving while catching Pokémon is dangerous, as you risk messing up your throw and allowing the Pokémon to escape.
At a holocaust museum
The locations of Pokémon aren’t decided by the developers, instead they’re automatically generated by algorithms with zero sense of propriety. An unaddressed side-effect is that Pokémon (and the people trying to catch them) are cropping up in some supremely inappropriate spots, such as Los Angeles’ Holocaust Museum and, reportedly, the Auschwitz Memorial too. Efforts are being made to remove these locations and several others from the game, including one man’s house, which was randomly designated as a Pokémon Gym and now attracts hundreds of developmentally arrested 30-year-olds.
At a gay bar
Appropriately, the Pokémon in this West Hollywood gay bar was a Machop, which is widely regarded to evolve into the most hench Pokémon around. Dancers and clientele alike stopped what they were doing and let fly with a flurry of Pokéballs.
BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) July 13, 2016
Outside Downing Street
BBC journalists waiting outside 10 Downing Street for Theresa May to make her first appearance as Prime Minister filled the time by catching a few Pokémon. Political reporter Adam Fleming proudly caught not only a Pikachu, but a Drowzee too. A third monster eventually appeared, but unfortunately could not be caught.