It's raining. The British summer has been everything we expect it to be, and at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon, you're not supposed to be sitting in your car playing Pokemon Go.

But addiction makes you do things you wouldn't normally do and things you certainly wouldn't normally admit to. 

The cosseted interior of a BMW 5 Series is a fine place to launch an assault on the local Pokemon Gym. It's raining, after all, and as a 39-year-old it's perhaps a little too wet to be outside, even if that's what Pokemon Go wants you to be doing.

Sheltering under the bridge next to this particular Pokemon Gym are three teens. The flash of green on their permanently awake smartphones confirms they're Go players too. This is their Gym and they're about to lose it. 

The gym is a soft target, although it takes several Pokemon to defeat the fully powered-up Hypno who's lurking there. From the soaring high of the victory, comes the crushing low of seeing those teens rush out to reoccupy the Gym with a new set of more powerful Pokemon, faster than we can move in. It's an embarrassing twist of events.

This is where Pokemon Go takes you. It crosses divides, from the softly heated leather of a BMW, to the cowled figures sheltering from the rain. You're not playing in your front room on your sofa - something that has characterised computer gaming from its inception - instead you have to take yourself outside into the real world, where there are real people. 


It's at this point that Pokemon Go is likely to divide its players. There are two sides to Pokemon Go. The first is the collection of Pokemon. This is the aspect that's casual, but very, very, addictive. You have a Pokedex, a list of those Pokemon you have and those you could have, so you face the same sort of addiction that drives people to collect football stickers or Facebook friends - you don't want gaps, you want the complete set.

Because Pokemon are fairly easy to find and fairly easy to catch, you feel like you're making progress right from the start. You might catch a lot of the same type of Pokemon - for us it's Pidgy and Rattata - but they play a part in helping you evolve and get new Pokemon.

Pokemon Go rewards you for heading to new places. Your garden is unlikely to yield much Pokemon action and quiet residential streets may be the same. But head into a town, or city centre, and Pokemon Go quite literally takes over. This will cause frustration for some players: if you live in the country, Pokemon might be hard to find.

As PokeStops - places where you can collect items like health potions and Poke Balls - are often on notable cultural locations, like statues, memorials or pubs, once you're in a populated location, the riches are plentiful. Walk through Trafalgar Square in London and you'll be collecting items about every 10 paces, feeling the endorphin rush of having your cravings sated.


Catching Pokemon requires those Poke Balls you collect at PokeStops and catching a Pokemon is fairly easy. You press and hold the ball, watch the ring concentrating on the centre of your target, then you flick the ball at the Pokemon, hopefully hitting it on the head, where you'll usually capture that character. 

Sometimes the Pokemon jumps or moves, and sometimes they can escape. Sometimes you'll throw a lot of Balls, then hit them with a Razz Berry to soften them up, before you make a successful capture. The higher the CP of that Pokemon, the harder it is to catch, the rarer it is, again, the more tricky it seems to be. 

This is the side of Pokemon Go that will likely be popular with all ages and types of mobile gamers. You can sit in the park, eating your lunch, catching Pokemon. You can be waiting for the bus, and stroll up and down the street visiting PokeStops and seeing what Pokemon are out there. It's a lovely distraction. 

Or someone might drop a Lure at the PokeStop pub you're sitting in, and it's happy days. It's here that the augmented reality that Pokemon Go has been lauded for comes into play. When you go to capture, the camera on the rear of the phone shows you the real world with your target character in it. It's fun, it's novel, adding a sense of purpose to AR in a game that it has so far lacked, giving that feeling that you're actually living in this alternate reality.

Yes, there have been a few times when we've felt our phone buzz, and we've looked around the real world for that Pokemon to catch.


Pokemon isn't just about catching them all. It's about pitching them into battle. This is where Gyms come into play, and ultimately, this is what the different Pokemon stats are about: how strong they will attack and how well they will survive attacks, as well as which Pokemon is more effective against which other type.

When you encounter a Gym, you'll find it occupied by a team and defended by one or more Pokemon. You'll be made to join a team as you progress through the game and that determines whether you'll be training and defending the Gym, or battling the occupants, knocking down prestige and ultimately taking control for your own team.

It's here that Pokemon is a very different game to the cutsey "catch 'em all" fun. Having to go to that Gym with those aims is very different to exploring and the reward of discovery.


But it's also what Pokemon is really about, and where the biggest rewards lie. If it's your Gym and you're defending it, you'll earn coins and those coins will let you buy things from the store without spending real money. Gyms give you the chance to feed your habit without having to sell family heirlooms, or raid the kid's college funds, but you'll have to go back to it regularly.

Ultimately, the aim of catching, hatching, evolving or powering-up, is so that your Pokemon champion is more Gregor Clegane and less Tyrion Lannister. You'll also want an army of strong Pokemon, rather than just a few, so you have the resources to take down a Gym. This is where the obsessive catching and evolving, filling out your Pokedex comes into its own, but where having friends on the same team as you matters, as you'll need to attack Gyms together to have the power or the time to over-throw the defending team. Yes, a bit like gang warfare.

For many - those with the time - hanging out at Pokemon Gyms will be the hit, bringing the buzz of Pokemon Go, and taking the game to its highest highs. But for others, it will feel like Pokemon OD, where it gets too much, takes too much time and involves too much loitering.

It's amusing that in these early days that no one really knows how to best tackle these battles and that's part of the fun, because it's all so new. We suspect that once Gyms get to high levels, casual players won't stand a chance to winning and it'll all come down to coordinated team efforts, which might reduce casual gamers to vagrant wanderers, hunting far and wide for an easy target.

Aside from the real money you could spend, if you're so far gone you just have to buy more stuff through in-app purchases, there are other tangible costs.

As smartphone users know though, keeping your phone on all the time costs you a lot in battery life. That's where Pokemon Go really hits home. As you need to phone awake to be playing the game, you need it on. You don't have to interact with it all the time, because you'll get a vibration to notify you of something. 

An excited glance at your phone might reveal a new Pokemon for you to capture, or if you're unlucky, just a text message from a loved one. We're talking about addiction, remember?

With walking specific distances necessary to hatch eggs in incubators, there's a feeling that things could be handled better - is it about the walking, or time spent with the game open? Sadly, it's about walking with the game open, so there's no escaping the massive drain on the battery as you do so, but we've started carrying a 10,500mAh battery pack like a pro, good for three full recharges.

If you're fully addicted to Pokemon Go, you can expect your battery to be drained in a couple of hours - but just think about how far you might walk - we've chocked up 15km walks on some days, although Pokemon Go's measurement of distance seems much lower than what you actually walk.


Pokemon Go's success has surprised everyone. The game has become pandemic, already seeing huge adoption in regions in which it is yet to officially launch. This is part of the cult - you're playing something you're not supposed to, and that's part of the thrill, being part of something that's a huge event in mobile gaming, and brand new. That might lessen now that it's officially launched in the UK.

There is a downside that plagues the game, however, and that's a point of infrastructure. Server problems have been rife and that can mean failures to access the game, and failures to sync.

You might be mid-capture of Jynx and you'll get the spinning wheel as the game stutters and fails to connect. We've had a number of freezes and crashes at this point, manually quitting the game and restarting to get things running again. It's far from perfect, but, perhaps, Niantic Labs didn't think it would be so viral.


Then there are the locations. One of our local Gyms isn't in a place you can get to. We don't know how Pokemon Go's locations were put together, but we guess it was some sort of location scraper that used online sources to collect data and images of places. But in the real world, you'll find some of these locations are behind fences, on private property, or for us, on a building site.

Yes, Pokemon Go has placed a Gym on a field next to an actual gym. Unfortunately the developers rolled in with earth movers and put up boarding, so the physical location of that Pokemon Gym isn't accessible. It's still occupied, however, and there's a flattened section under some fencing that lets the local kids in. Pokemon Go might lead some players to places they really shouldn't be in. 

While some locations are good humoured about it, we're not sure St Mary's Church wants that many people standing in its cemetery and The Anglers pub might not want its outdoor seating area full of Go players. If they're paying customers, there's a happy medium here, but pubs with groups of kids hanging around outside might not do so well.


Pokemon Go has already made its mark on the landscape. It comes at a time when many people wanted a distraction from the turmoil of the real world and Pokemon Go whisks you away on a flight of fancy. 

Exploring, collecting and catching is exciting, and being able to do that in that outdoors, on your feet, wherever you happen to be that day, is part of the magic, whether you're young or old, in a group or on your own. 

For many, the battles and occupying the Gyms will be the game, especially for those with a Gym on their doorstep. It's about dominating, owning your territory and leaving your mark, but some might simply find they're too far from a Gym to ever really exploit that side of the game. It's a social game that doesn't leave you chatting to strangers via some chat app, but swapping tips with real people, in the real world. This could lead to meeting new people, but we're sure there will be real world battles too, as people decide it's easier to chase off Gym attackers, rather than beat them in the game.

Pokemon Go's moment is now. It's a rollercoaster ride you should jump on while the thrills are fresh and while it's new and novel. Go and buy yourself a spare battery, and make yourself part of this crazy social event, before it fizzles out. For us, we're almost ready to go Cold Turkey.