Hopefully, by now, you've downloaded and installed Pokémon Go on your mobile device, and have signed up for a Pokémon Go account. Now, it's finally time to start playing the game! This guide will walk you through everything that you need to know in order to play Pokémon Go, from catching your very first Pokémon to challenging the imposing Gym Leaders.
Creating your trainer
When you first start the game, you will be asked to create your trainer. This is the avatar that you will be using to represent yourself with in the game. Tap the male or female trainer to select your gender, and then tap the checkmark icon.
After selecting your gender, you will be able to modify the features of your trainer. Tap one of the features beside your trainer that you wish to modify, and then tap the arrows in the bottom-middle portion of the screen to change how that feature looks. When you're finished making changes, tap the checkmark icon.
After you catch your first Pokémon (see the next section), you will be asked to give your trainer a nickname. Tap in the box labelled "Nickname" and use your device's (virtual) keyboard to type in a nickname for yourself, using letters and numbers. Then tap OK (tap Yes to confirm). If your nickname is unavailable, try another one.
When you are on the main map screen, your character will move in accordance to where you are in the world, as determined by the G.P.S. function on your mobile device. If you tap the white bar in the bottom-right corner of the screen, you will see a list of up to 9 Pokémon that are near your general area. Pokémon that you have not yet caught will appear as silhouettes.
When you move near enough to a Pokémon, it will appear on the main map screen. Tap it to initiate an encounter.
On the encounter screen, you will see the Pokémon that you have encountered overlaid on your mobile device's camera, along with its name and Combat Power (C.P.). (Tap the AR button in the top-right corner to turn the camera overlay off.) If you can't see the Pokémon, try turning around a bit.
There are a few other commands that you should know about. Tap the Run command in the top-left corner to run away from a Pokémon, should you decide that it's too difficult to catch. The Pokémon will still appear in the general area on the main map screen, should you change your mind and wish to encounter it again.
Tapping the Camera command in the lower-right corner will allow you to take a picture of the Pokémon by tapping the button at the bottom of your mobile device's screen. The picture will be stored in your device's camera roll.
Tap the Item command below the Camera command (when it's available) to use an item to help you catch the Pokémon. For example, you can tap the Razz Berry (and then tap it again when it appears on the encounter screen) to make a Pokémon easier to catch and less likely to flee. Or, you can tap the Great Ball or Ultra Ball icons to switch to those types of Poké Balls; these advanced Poké Balls also make a Pokémon easier to catch.
Your goal is to catch the Pokémon before it runs away. Press and hold your finger down on the Poké Ball icon in the bottom-middle portion of the screen to cause a pair of target rings to appear around the Pokémon.
(HINT: The colour of the inner target ring will show you how difficult it is to catch this Pokémon. Green is easiest, yellow is medium difficulty, and orange and red mean that a Pokémon is very difficult to catch.)
(Image Source: Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia)
Swipe your finger towards the Pokémon to throw the Poké Ball at it. You will need to at least hit the outer target ring in order to catch the Pokémon. However, try to aim your throw so that you hit the inner target ring; this will result in a "Nice Throw" that gives your trainer more experience if you catch the Pokémon. Be sure to take into account how far away the Pokémon is from you, as well as if it's jumping or floating. These may affect how fast or far that you have to swipe, as well as the direction that you swipe.
Don't worry if you miss or the Pokémon breaks out of the Poké Ball; as long as you still have Poké Balls (your stock number is indicated beside the Poké Ball icon), you can try again until the Pokémon runs away.
If you are successful in catching a Pokémon, you will earn experience for your trainer, some Stardust, and some Candy for that Pokémon's evolutionary line. We'll talk about the latter two in our section on "Strengthening your Pokémon".
Hatching Pokémon from eggs
There is another way to get new Pokémon, and that is to hatch them from eggs. To do so, start by tapping the main menu icon (it looks like a Poké Ball) on the main map screen.
Once you're on the main menu, tap Pokémon.
On this screen, you can manage the Pokémon that you've caught; we'll get to that a little bit later. For now, tap Eggs. You will see any Pokémon eggs that you've collected (up to 9 of them), as well as how far you have to move in order to fully hatch them. To start, tap the egg that you wish to hatch.
Once you have an egg selected, tap Start Incubation.
You will now have to select an available incubator to hatch your egg in. One can be used indefinitely (marked by an "infinity" sign), while others will break after 3 uses. Tap an incubator that isn't greyed out to select it.
Now, all that you have to do is walk around, playing Pokémon Go as you normally would. Once you have walked a certain distance, you will get a message that your egg has hatched! What Pokémon could be inside? That's partially determined by how far you had to walk to hatch it, but other than that… it'll be a surprise!
(TIP: You earn more Stardust and Candy for hatching a Pokémon from an egg as opposed to catching a Pokémon in the wild, so try to hatch Pokémon eggs as often as you can!)
Stocking up on items at PokéStops
As you travel around your local area, you will often encounter points called PokéStops. These can often be found at notable places, such as monuments, parks, public works of art, museums, or other points of interest. As you near a PokéStop, you will see it change shape. Tap it to access it.
(TIP: Blue PokéStops are ones that can be used now. Purple PokéStops are ones that have already been used. PokéStops cannot be used multiple times in succession, but try coming back to them at a later time. You should be able to use them again!)
You will see the name of the PokéStop at the top of the screen; you can tap the little arrow here to view more or less of the specific place that it depicts. When you're viewing less of the PokéStop, you can swipe your finger across the picture of the area to start generating items. Tap the items that come out of the picture to add them to your inventory.
You can also tap the white box at the top of the photo disc to place a Lure Module item (if you have one) at this PokéStop. This will cause Pokémon to appear frequently at this PokéStop for all players, including you, for about half an hour. (In the background of the picture above, you can see PokéStops with Lure Modules installed, identifiable by the pink flower petals surrounding them.)
Tap the "X" at the bottom-middle portion of the screen to exit the PokéStop.
Strengthening your Pokémon
If you wish to prepare your Pokémon for battle, you're going to need to know how to power them up. Start by tapping the main menu icon.
From the main menu, tap Pokémon.
The Pokémon menu shows you all of the Pokémon that you currently have at your disposal. You can carry up to 250 Pokémon at once, barring upgrades that you can buy at the shop (see our Pokémon Go Prices article). Tap the Pokémon that you wish to manage.
On a Pokémon's information screen, you can see their Combat Power (C.P.), a general indication of how well they perform in battle. You can also see their Hit Points (H.P.), which is their current health. This screen also displays things such as the Pokémon's type, attacks, and attack type and power. Tap the pencil icon to give your Pokémon a nickname; type it in using your device's (virtual) keyboard, and then tap OK.
Tap Power Up to increase this Pokémon's CP and HP, or tap Evolve to change this Pokémon into a different, more powerful form.
(TIP: Some Pokémon cannot be powered up until your trainer is a certain level. You can find your trainer level in the bottom-left corner of the main map screen. Catch more Pokémon, hatch more eggs, visit more PokéStops, and battle at more Gyms to raise your trainer level. Conversely, some Pokémon that couldn't be powered up any more may be able to power up once your trainer level increases.)
Powering up or evolving a Pokémon takes two resources: Stardust and/or Candy. You can get Stardust in a variety of ways, such as catching Pokémon, having Pokémon hatch from eggs, or having your Pokémon defend friendly Gyms (see the "Battling at Gyms" section below).
Candy can be obtained by catching or evolving Pokémon that are part of the same evolutionary line. So, for example, if you catch a Pidgey and then catch a Pidgeotto, since they are both part of the same evolutionary line, you will get the same type of Candy from each of them. You can also use the same type of Candy to power up or evolve either of them.
There is one other way to get Candy, and that is transferring your Pokémon to Professor Willow. To do so, tap the three bars on the Pokémon information screen (in the bottom-right corner), and then tap Transfer. Tap Yes to confirm and transfer your Pokémon to Professor Willow, and get one piece of Candy for that Pokémon's evolutionary line. Be careful, though; you can't get back a Pokémon that you've transferred, so make sure that you really want to do it!
(TIP: Capture and transfer Pokémon with lower C.P. numbers to Professor Willow in order to get the Candy and Stardust that you need to power up and evolve Pokémon with higher C.P. numbers of the same type!)
Battling at Gyms
Gyms, like PokéStops, are notable landmarks where the different teams can battle their Pokémon against each other. The Gym's colour will tell you what team it belongs to, if any (more on teams in a moment).
Also, like PokéStops, Gyms will change shape when you are near enough to access them. Tap one when you are near enough to it to enter it.
When you enter a Gym for the first time after your trainer gains enough experience (by catching Pokémon, hatching Pokémon from eggs, visiting PokéStops, and so on) to reach level 5, you will be asked to join one of three teams: Team Instinct (yellow), Team Mystic (blue), or Team Valor (red). Tap the leader of the team that you want to join to select it, and then tap the checkmark icon to confirm your choice.
If a Gym is unoccupied, or is occupied by someone from the same team as you (and has high enough prestige), you can assign one of your Pokémon to guard the Gym against other teams. This will allow you to gain extra Stardust for strengthening your Pokémon, as well as PokéCoins to use for shopping.
If the Gym is occupied by your team, you can also train one of your Pokémon at the Gym in order to gain extra experience and increase the Gym's prestige. Increasing a Gym's prestige allows more Pokémon to be stationed at the Gym to defend it, which makes it harder for other teams to take it over.
To station one of your Pokémon at a Gym, tap the Add Pokémon button in the bottom-left corner, and then tap the Pokémon that you wish to add to the Gym. The Pokémon will stay there until another player defeats it, in which case it will return to your collection with 1 HP (so remember to heal it; see our section on "Using Items" below). Also, remember to heal your Pokémon before depositing them at the Gym, since only Pokémon with full HP will qualify!
If you wish to train at the Gym instead, tap the Train button in the lower-right corner. You will automatically be assigned a Pokémon to train; tap it to see your collection, and then tap a different Pokémon to replace it as the one to train. When you're ready, tap Go to start a battle. (We'll talk about actual battles more in step 5.)
You can also just tap the "X" in the bottom-middle portion of the screen to exit the Gym.
If a Gym is occupied by a rival team, you can challenge it in order to gain experience and lower the Gym's prestige, making it easier to take over.
Sometimes, if you swipe your finger left or right on the Gym entrance screen, you will be able to see the different Pokémon that are guarding the Gym. The one with the crown above it (as shown here) is the strongest Pokémon in the Gym, known as the Gym Leader.
Tap Fight in the lower-right corner to begin assembling your team for battle. Unlike the one Pokémon that you can choose for a training battle, you can bring up to six Pokémon to a Gym fight. Tap one of the Pokémon in the list to select it, and then tap another Pokémon in your collection to switch it out. When you're ready to start the battle, tap Go.
(TIP: You're likely going to want to bring your Pokémon with the highest Combat Power — C.P. — to a Gym fight, but also consider a Pokémon's type and the types of its attacks. For example, if you fight a Fire-type Pokémon with one that can use Water-type, Rock-type, or Ground-type attacks, you'll do more damage and have an easier time. You can check your Pokémon's type and attack types on its information screen, as outlined in step 4 of the "Strengthening your Pokémon" section. This chart on Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia, outlines the different interactions between attack types and defending Pokémon types.)
During a battle, your Pokémon's HP meter, CP, and special attack meter will be seen in the top-left portion of the screen, while your opponent's HP meter and CP will be seen in the top-right portion of the screen. You can also see the time remaining in the current battle in between these two sets of information. The goal is to deplete the HP meter of your opponent's Pokémon before they deplete your Pokémon's HP meter(s).
When the battle begins, tap your Pokémon lightly to use its primary attack. This, in conjunction with your Pokémon taking damage, will fill its special attack meter. When at least one bar of your Pokémon's special attack meter is full, tap and hold on your Pokémon to make it execute its special attack. You can also swipe your finger left and right on the screen to have your Pokémon dodge attacks.
There are two other buttons in the bottom-right corner of the screen that are helpful. Tap the Run button to exit the Gym battle, or tap the Switch button to have another Pokémon on your team replace the current one in battle. (Be aware that this will reset the current Pokémon's special attack meter, so time your switches carefully!)
After a Gym battle is over, your Pokémon will be returned to your collection. If they were defeated at a friendly Gym, they will return with 1 HP. If they were defeated at a rival Gym, they will be fainted. All other Pokémon will be returned with the amount of HP that they had remaining when the battle was over.
There are various types of items that can help you in your Pokémon Go quest. Many are context-sensitive, in that they are automatically (or can only be) used when encountering a wild Pokémon, or hatching a Pokémon egg. Others can be used freely from the Items menu. To get there, start by tapping the main menu icon on the main map screen.
From the main menu, tap Items.
We have already gone over the contexts in which you can use most of the items in Pokémon Go. However, there are four that we still need to cover: Potions, Revives, Lucky Eggs, and Incenses.
If one of your Pokémon has lost HP (but still has at least 1 HP), a Potion can restore its HP. Tap Potion, and then tap the Pokémon that you wish to use it on. You will find more powerful Potions (Super Potion, Hyper Potion, and Max Potion) as your trainer gains experience.
If one of your Pokémon is fainted (i.e. at 0 HP), a Revive can heal it back to half of its maximum HP. Tap Revive, and then tap the Pokémon that you wish to use it on. Again, as your trainer gains experience, you will be able to find Max Revives, which will fully heal a fainted Pokémon.
The Lucky Egg item causes your trainer to gain twice as much experience from actions such as catching Pokémon, hatching eggs, visiting PokéStops, and challenging Gyms. Tap Lucky Egg, and then tap the Lucky Egg icon on the main map screen to apply it. Be aware that this item's effect only lasts about half an hour, so plan to use it when you're going to be in a busy area with lots of PokéStops, Gyms, and (hopefully) Pokémon!
The Incense item attracts Pokémon to you for about half an hour. Tap Incense, and then tap the Incense icon when it appears on the main map screen to apply it. Plan ahead to use this item, as it's best used when you'll be out exploring an area for new Pokémon.
You can hold a maximum of 350 items at once, barring upgrades that you can buy at the shop. If you amass too many items, you may not be able to get any when visiting PokéStops. To alleviate this, you can discard certain items from your inventory, in order to make more room.
To do this, tap the trash can icon beside an item that you wish to discard. A box will pop up asking you how many of this item you wish to get rid of. Tap the "+" and "–" buttons to select the quantity of the item that you want to discard, and then tap Yes to confirm.
Well, that's about everything that you need to know in order to play Pokémon Go! Good luck on your quest, trainer!