Pokémon Go 101

Pokémon Go 101

Connor Keenan is our guest blogger.  We thought it might be a good idea to have an active Pokémon Go user provide some background on this new rage, and explain how it all works.  He is a St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute grad, and when he begins college next month, he’ll be majoring in journalism and creative writing.

Over the course of a week, one app has already acquired more than 7.5 million downloads, making its way onto headlines around the world. Pokémon Go, created by Nintendo and developed by Niantic, is an augmented reality game that allows users to interact with fictional creatures in the real world through the use of their phone’s GPS.     Announced on September 9, 2015, the game released on July 6, 2016, without advance notice. It was known that the game was to be released this year, but no exact date was ever announced prior to its release. It may be difficult for some to understand the game’s popularity, and in order to comprehend how the game functions, you must first have a basic understanding of the base material.

The first Pokémon games were released in 1996 for the Gameboy. In each game, you play as a Pokémon trainer, a young boy or girl who embarks on a journey to become the best trainer in the region. Through capturing, battling, and levelling up Pokémon, trainers gain access to Pokémon Gyms. These are led by Gym Leaders, strong trainers with teams of Pokémon that are difficult to beat. Upon defeating all eight Gym Leaders, the trainer will gain access to the Elite Four, the four strongest trainers in the entire region. Upon defeating these four trainers in succession, the player wins the game.

One of the big selling points for a game like Pokémon is its sheer size. Nowadays, there are over 700 different Pokémon to collect, train, and evolve. A player can become immersed in the sprawling regions that each game has to offer. Being able to interact with your friends is also huge. Players can trade and battle each other in an attempt to prove that they are the very best.

As a kid, everybody dreams of their favorite game or television show becoming a reality. Becoming a Power Ranger or flying into space with a lightsaber are common themes in the imaginations of children. Just like these shows, everyone who has played a Pokémon game has always thought of capturing and training Pokémon in real life. With the introduction of Pokémon Go, this distant dream has finally become a reality for millions of people, young and old, around the world.

The newest addition to the franchise features Pokémon coming into the real world. The game utilizes a phone’s GPS to determine a player’s location. Unlike most games, Pokémon Go cannot be played from the comfort of your couch. The game requires people to go outside and walk around in order to catch the creatures. The phone screen displays a map of the surrounding area, with the player’s exact location represented by a character that the player designs. Pokémon will occasionally appear within a radius around the player. Upon tapping on one, the phone’s camera will be activated, allowing the player to view a model of the Pokémon in the world. To capture the monster, you need to throw a Pokéball at it.

Supplies of items, such as Pokéballs, are limited, but can be picked up at various Pokéstops in any community. These are places of interest, such as major monuments, signs, and buildings. Other real world locations include Pokémon Gyms, just like in the actual games. These locations allow for people to fulfill their dreams of becoming an actual Gym Leader, placing a Pokémon to defend the point from opposing teams of players. Gyms can be taken over by battling them with your own Pokémon, whittling down the Gym’s reputation in order to claim it as your own.

Overall, the game is incredibly addictive. The collectable nature of the 151 available creatures gives players an incentive to return to the game in order to, “Catch ‘Em All.” Promised features, such as trading, will be coming to the game soon, giving another way for players to interact with one another. Being able to see people’s dreams become a reality is extremely satisfying, and going for a walk around the block has never been more exhilarating.

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Working behind the scenes during pope’s visit was a blessing

Working behind the scenes during pope’s visit was a blessing

When Pope Francis entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Evening Prayer in New York City on Sept. 24, my initial reaction was to make the sign of the cross. It was the first time I had been in the presence of a pontiff; it was a natural expression of my Catholic faith.

While I did take some photos, I made sure that my first sighting of a pope was not through a viewfinder. I wanted this memory in my mind, not as a digital file.

As communications counsel to the Diocese of Buffalo, I volunteered to assist with the massive media effort organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of New York. They handled more than 8,000 media requests from about 1,800 media outlets, from virtually every country in the world. In New York, there were about 80 Catholic communicators from dioceses across the country, assisting with the endeavor.

My assignments included working with a television camera operator in the back of the cathedral and with still photographers at the September 11 Memorial, where the pope took part in an interfaith prayer service.

We also assisted the VAMP, the Vatican Media Pool, a collection of international journalists from news organizations who travel with the Holy Father. They often work in cramped quarters, like the rest of the media. It does not look like a very glamorous lifestyle. This experience gave me newfound respect for reporters.

There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” (due to travel and security, media had to arrive at St. Patrick’s Cathedral six hours ahead of schedule), they often work in cramped quarters, and while they can be pretty cynical, they maintained a good sense of humor. Many commented that the U.S. Bishops and the archdiocese did an excellent job of making sure they were in their locations well in advance of the pope’s arrival.

Security for the papal visit was led by the Secret Service. Not surprisingly, it was incredibly tight at the September 11 Memorial.

My final duty was at the media Filing Center located in the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. It was the location for two evening briefings with Father Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit priest (like the pope) who serves as director of the Holy See Press Office. What impressed me most was his ability to deftly answer some very difficult questions in English, not his first language.

Bishop Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo, made an astute observation about the pope’s visit, when he said he hopes people listen to Pope Francis’ challenge. “There’s such charisma there, that for some people, that’s where it stops. They’re fascinated by him. The question is: Do we get beyond his style, his tone, his charisma, and listen to the essence of what he is saying? He’s not only challenging us to work for a better world, but also reminding us of the importance of God in our lives. We don’t want to miss his message.”

It is taking me some time to reflect on my papal experience and what it means. No question, it was the highlight of a rewarding career in broadcast journalism and public relations. Less than a week after being in the presence of the Holy Father, I do know one thing: I feel blessed, filled with gratitude, joy and peace, for having been given a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Kevin A. Keenan is president of Keenan Communications Group and serves as Communications Counsel to the Diocese of Buffalo.  Originally Published in The Buffalo News, Oct. 4, 2015.