How To Be Better At Pokémon Go!

Pokemon Go is exploding. It’s a pop culture phenomenon unlike anything we’ve seen before. Think I’m crazy? If you live in anything resembling a major city, go stop by a mildly popular landmark — if you don’t see a dozen people staring at their phone and flinging Poké balls, you have your eyes shut.

Already into Pokémon Go? Want to get better, faster? I’ve been playing for a few days now, spent some time talking with the developers, and have picked up a few tricks. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Learn To Read The Feet

See that box in the bottom right that usually has a few Pokémon in it? Tap that.

This is the “Nearby” drawer, and it’s a source of endless confusion for new users

This drawer shows you Pokémon that are nearby… in a sorta cryptic way. Instead of actual numerical distances, it uses footprints. 1 foot means that Pokémon is close. 3 feet = far, but walkable. No feet means you’re basically on top of it.


Tracking nearby Pokémon

Pokémon you’ve seen/already have show in full color. Those you haven’t encountered are silhouettes.

It’s a pain, but you can use these icons to sort of triangulate and track Pokémon. Need to find that silhouette that just appeared? Pick a direction. If the number of feet increases, you’re moving further away. Try turning around. Repeat until you start getting close.


Catch a rarer Pokemon

To catch a Pokémon in the wild, you hold your thumb down on a Pokéball and fling it at the Pokémon’s head. At first, that’s all you’ll really need to do.

As you start finding tougher/rarer Pokémon, however, things get a bit more complicated.

When you hold your thumb down, notice the colored circle that appears over the Pokémon. See how it starts big, and gets small, over and over?

Smaller is better. Theoretically, you want to throw the Pokéball when that circle is niiiice and small.  Smaller circle means higher odds of a successful capture. But there’s a catch!


Aim matters too!

For the size of the colored circle to really matter, you need to essentially land your Pokéball INSIDE that colored circle. The Pokéball will “activate” any time you land it inside of the outer white circle — you just won’t increase your odds of catching the Pokémon.

The smaller the circle, the better your odds are. But the smaller the circle, the harder it is to hit. So you’ve gotta find the right balance of size/difficulty that works for your throwing ability.


And so does circle color!

Complicating the whole catching process further is the color of that shrinking circle.

Green means it’s relatively easy to catch. Yellow is tougher. Red is super hard.

I’ve only encountered a handful of reds, and each one took half a dozen plus Pokéballs to successfully catch. Even then, I had to use some…


Razz Berries. Lots and lots of Razz Berries.

Razz Berries!

You’ll start getting razz berries from Poké Stops once you’ve hit Level 8.

Razz Berries keep a Pokémon occupied for a few seconds, thus making them less likely to bust out of your Pokéball on your next throw.

To use a Razz Berry, open your backpack, tap it, and then tap the one that pops up on screen.

If you’re unsuccessful on that next throw, that razz berry is wasted — so if you fail on the first try, bring up your item drawer to check if you can drop another one.


Hit Poké Stops Efficiently

You have a Poké Stop near your house? Nice! That’s convenient!

But it’s probably not the most efficient place to play.

Poké Stops reset every few minutes, and you get items/XP each time you hit one. So rather than going for the most convenient one, you’re better off finding the nearest place with a bunch of stops near each other. Walk to one, hit it, walk to the next, hit it, walk to the next, hit it — then turn around and hit’em all again as they reset. If I walk a few blocks away from my house, I can hit 8 stops in the time it takes the one near me to reset.

These hubs of stops also tend to be the ones that other players have thrown lures on, attracting additional Pokemon. See the Poké stops with the pink flowers? Those are ones with active lures.


Play at different times

Different times = different Pokémon. Anecdotally, I’ve caught most of my rarer stuff in the evening.

Remember that the night brings extra dangers, though: people will be extra suspicious of someone wandering around the neighborhood (seemingly taking photos, no less) at night, cars are less likely to see you, muggings, etc. Only play in well lit public areas at night.


Play at different times

Different times = different Pokémon. Anecdotally, I’ve caught most of my rarer stuff in the evening.

Remember that the night brings extra dangers, though: people will be extra suspicious of someone wandering around the neighborhood (seemingly taking photos, no less) at night, cars are less likely to see you, muggings, etc. Only play in well lit public areas at night.


 Curve Balls

Next time you’re trying to catch a weaker Pokémon just for the hell of it, give your ball a spin. Literally. Quickly drag your thumb in a circle a few times until you see your Pokéball start to spin. Now throw. It’ll arc like crazy — imagine a bowling ball you’ve put spin on — making it a bit more challenging… but done right, you’ll also get a nice XP bonus out of it.

Don’t lose a rare Pokémon because you were trying to get fancy with the spin, but use it to make a boring capture a bit more interesting and get some bonus XP.


Play together

Go is inherently social. It was designed to encourage you play with friends.

So do that! Playing with friends makes it considerably easier, if only because you can cover more ground. Trying to track a Pokémon that is 3 footprints away? If you and two friends each go in a different direction, you’ll find it in no time flat.

Playing in groups also makes it waaaay easier for other groups to identify you, which leads to “OH YEAH MAN THERE’S A MEOWTH OVER THERE” tip exchanges.


Catch stuff you already have

Sick of catching Zubat for the billionth time?

Do it anyway.

First, you get a few pieces of candy (required to evolve a Pokémon) each time you catch a Pokémon.

The candy for each Pokémon is unique to that Pokémon’s evolutionary branch — so Bulbasaur needs Bulbasaur candy to evolve into Ivysaur, but Ivysaur can also use Bulbasaur candy to evolve further into Venusaur. Neither Bulbasaur nor Ivysaur can use, say, Charmander Candy.

Second, you get another piece of candy when you “transfer” (read: DESTROY FOREVER) your extras.

Third, you get a mad stash of XP EVERY time you evolve a Pokémon, even if its one you’ve evolved before. You know all those damned Pidgeys you see everywhere? Just keep catching them, gathering up that candy, and evolving them…

But do it wisely, with the help of…


Lucky eggs! Use them smartly.

Lucky eggs double ALL the XP you get for 30 minutes. You might find them at Poké Stops if you luck out – otherwise, you can buy them for actual… you know, money.

The trick? Wait to evolve all of those pidgeys until you’ve got a lucky egg active. Instead of 500 xp, you’ll get 1000. Then use the rest of your time to hit that efficient Poké Stop route you found earlier, and hit some gyms for the hell of it.


Bonus tip: Bring a battery pack

Seriously, this game destroys your battery. Between constant GPS pings and having your screen on the entire time, it’s just part of the game. Solid battery packs that’ll bring your phone back to life 4-5 times per charge are just $20-30 on Amazon, so just grab one and stop worrying about running home to juice up.


Bonus Bonus tip: Wear sunscreen

This won’t make you any better, but… well, wear sunscreen.

Video games usually don’t take us out in the sun for hours at a time, and it’s easy to forget that while the Pokémon aren’t real, skin cancer is.

This is all a wordy way of saying that Pokémon Go is the first video game to give me a sunburn and you should learn from my mistakes.


Good Luck!


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