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How Pokemon Go works (or why I went from being a hater to loving it)

Pokemon Go Logo
Okay, by now everyone and their brother have probably heard about Pokemon Go.  When it first came out I was like many who thought it was stupid.  People are running around, trying to catch a fake monster on their phones and tablets, and someti
mes being really stupid and trespassing, walking off of cliffs or into traffic.

Not for me.

So, what made me change my mind?

It had everything to do with researching everything I could find on it, including how it works and what makes the programming tick.

(Disclaimer: This blog post is not meant as a gameplay guide.  You may get a few tips and tricks from it, but the intent to find such is not here)

The first thing to note is how the Pokemon spawn rate works.

First things first:  If you're sitting someplace rural, you're probably SOL.  The reason is that the spawn rate/chance is directly linked to cell data and how many people in that area are actually playing or have played recently.  It doesn't matter if there is a Pokestop with a module being used or if you dropped a lure.  The chances of getting something to "bite" is like trying to fish in a pond with no fish.  Remote Pokestops are only, therefore, useful if you happen to be in the area for some reason, and that reason happens to not be Pokemon GO, and you just want to farm that stop for Poke Balls and other items.  Other than that, don't waste your valuable lures or modules on that stop.   It won't be worth your effort or the items.  This also applies to parts of cities that are not exactly close to a city centre.

In North Bay that would be the 22nd wing's one, lonely Pokestop at the Museum or that parkette where the planes are.  By all means, go check out their museum and read the monuments.  People died for your freedom.  The least you can do is check it out and farm those two Pokestops while you're there... especially since the museum staff has asked that if you're not there to see the museum or for other base related business to stay off the property.  Honestly, I think they're dropping the biggest proverbial ball here for PR & recruitment, but, hey, that's their choice.

In Sudbury... well... I've noticed there are a few dead zones, even in the completely public parks in the city.  The best bet it is to stick to the downtown.  Respect the businesses and the private property (for the love of everything, please don't play in the bathroom!  You make me want to *facepalm*).  The rare spawns are more likely to pop, and the spawn rate is really high.  Head out to Lively, or Garson, and while there are Pokestops to mine on the very public property... well... the spawn rate sucks.  In the Valley, it's not too bad in Val Caron, but that's only close to the Main St/69N corridor.  Once you leave those areas, the Pokemon, even the weakest common, is a rare beast indeed.

I haven't been to the Sault to try, but I can also tell you that Blind River is pretty dead.  There are quite a few Pokestops (and well worth checking out), but the spawn rate is nil.  Elliot Lake isn't much better, but the Pokestop (I'll let you find it) that is open to the public that I found has a view that is to die for.  You can probably see Lake Huron from it ;)  Well worth the time to get up there and worth the climb to the open tower.  (Oops, I gave it away)

So, for Northern Ontario... if you see people playing (and I mean lots of players, not just a few here and there) stick close to where they are or you won't catch a thing.  That's how the game is played for catching stuff.

Why I didn't like the game for this:  There are some dumb people out there.  They trespass, they play in areas they shouldn't (a bathroom?  Really?), or they walk off of or into places they shouldn't (ie: traffic or off a dock and into the water...) because they weren't paying attention.  They just ceased to think when the game came out.  Smart people turned really dumb really quick over the craze.

Why I like the game for this:  It drives people to find places they never thought to find.  I didn't know about a museum in my hometown until Pokemon Go showed me it existed.  I also didn't know about a great number of other places, either.  Not only that, there is a park in Sudbury that was practically abandoned (except by vagrants) until it was almost literally taken over by Pokemon Go players.  The downtown has been getting attention from people who usually ignore it.  And it makes people get off the console games or the PC and outside... and physically walking.  If they pay attention to their surroundings (and 90% of the players I've seen in Memorial Park do), you suddenly have people doing what those Participaction people have been trying (and failing) to get those same players to do for years.  People are actually exploring their town, and taking notice of things.  Breathing outside air, and getting real sun... walking nearly 3km a day when you had to fight to get them to even walk from their couch to the fridge.

Granted, in some cases, you have to wonder why a Pokestop was placed where it was but there's the other hint.

Pokestops are only where they are because that space was a known public space with some historical or cultural significance.  Sometimes the game maker isn't perfect because they're not based in the same place as that space, so the information they have to go off of is from online sources only and from information provided by the location in question.

Think about that for just one second here.

On one hand, when Niantic doesn't get it perfectly right, the Pokestop may be in a place, or at least outside of it, where space may be open to the public but only during certain times and possibly even with an admission fee.  The bad side to this is where trespassing comes into play... and this is when the players need to exercise a healthy dose of common sense.  If the place they come to is only semi-public, such as a certain museum in North Bay that only 5% of the population knew existed up on the base, and in an area where it's not exactly public (ie: a military base) then they should be there for two reasons--base business (ie: you're in the military and that's your base) or to see the museum DURING business hours.  Otherwise, you have no business on that military base.  Stay off it.  No, seriously.  Respect that boundary.  Full stop.  However, to be fair... it's still the biggest ball dropped (no pun intended).  If I were a recruiter I'd be having a literal field day with this by assigning a recruiter, with a tent and a bunch of brochures & sign-up forms, right on top of that Pokestop, at least once a week to see how many I could "catch", or failing that, how many I could interest in the history of the place.  A little taste of what's inside on the outside to pique these already curious minds into wanting to know more.

But when Niantic gets it right... it's right in the middle of a space that is completely open to the public, such as a park or monument on public property, and those monuments are not unimportant ones either.  It means that for a player to catch everything they have to go to these monuments, find them (and probably look at them and hopefully realize their significance, but hey, at least you got those players there from being in front of a console, right?  One step in the right direction is better than none!) in order to be able to use them.

The distance part only works if you walk.

Unless you bike or need an assistive mobility device, expect a whole lot of walking!
Unless you bike or need an assistive mobility device, you're going to be doing a whole lot of this!
I tried to cheat.  I admit it--I turned the game on, threw the tablet into the back seat, and then drove with the game on hoping to trick the GPS into hatching an egg through distance gone from Bell Park to Memorial Park in my car.

Yeah, about those apples, lol... it didn't work.  The game is smart enough to know you're not actually walking or bicycling.  You absolutely must do the physical activity to get that part of it to work.  Also, you have to be within a certain distance of the Pokestop (and they planted those deep into the parks where you can't drive, so you have to get your butt out of the car, and again, walk to it)

This part sucks for some who may be unable to walk due to physical restrictions, but wait!  No, it's based on speed, not steps or bouncing around.  You can bicycle, or (and I've seen this) use a mobility assistive device (ie: motorized wheelchair or scooter) and still play.  You'll be limited to parks where there are walkways and sidewalks, but you can still play, so the game is inclusive.

It was all of this that made me look past the graphics and the strange premise of the game.  I grew up playing Clue and Monopoly.  If I could get past Colonel Mustard and the hat, then I could get past this.

I'm a gamer, which means (have you seen a picture of me?) that I'm on the portly... oh, who am I kidding?  I'm fat.  The excuse to get me off my computer and walking made my doctor jump for joy.

And if a game does that, it can't be all that bad.

References:
Spawn Rates
https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/4sryif/i_studied_pokemon_spawn_and_despawn_times_to_find/
Pokémon Go is a barren wasteland if you live in the country
http://www.polygon.com/2016/7/12/12150414/pokemon-go-nintendo-rural-country
Spawn and Population Rates
https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4t6lk0/spawn_and_population_density/
Something MUST be done about Pokemon Go in rural areas
https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4s1v3l/something_must_be_done_about_the_pok%C3%A9mon_spawn/
Expanding on the Pokemon Go correlations
https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4sucv2/expanding_upon_the_correlation_between_pok%C3%A9mon_go/
Why are there no Pokemon near me in Pokemon Go?
http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/273564/why-are-there-no-pok%C3%A9mon-near-me
A petition on Change.org to improve rural spawn rates (seriously!)
https://www.change.org/p/niantic-inc-add-pok%C3%A9stops-gyms-and-pok%C3%A9mon-in-less-populated-places-pok%C3%A9mon-go
Pokemon Go isn't great in rural areas
http://comicbook.com/2016/07/09/pokemon-go-isnt-great-in-rural-areas/

How Pokestops and Gyms Are Chosen
Why your church, art, and water towers are chosen as Pokestops and Gyms
http://www.gamesradar.com/why-your-local-church-and-water-towers-are-pokemon-go-gyms-and-pokestops/
How are Pokestops and Gyms Chosen (Quora)
https://www.quora.com/How-are-Pok%C3%A9stops-and-Gyms-chosen-in-Pok%C3%A9mon-GO
How do Pokestops and Gyms get chosen?
http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/180967-pokemon-go/74003240
HOW TO REQUEST A NEW POKESTOP
http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-request-new-pokestops-and-gyms-in-pokemon-go/

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