Mechanics and Dynamics of Pokemon Go

The central component of Pokemon Go is finding and catching different types of Pokemon. The different Pokemon that appear on screen are due to mechanics related to spawning, which include rules about which Pokemon can spawn in certain locations, times, and weather conditions. There’s an unknown algorithm that dictates what spawns, but there are known rules about increasing probabilities of certain spawns. For example, different types of Pokemon are more likely to spawn based on the weather (ie. water types are more likely during rain). Additionally, there are mechanisms related to how close one needs to be to see the spawn and the duration of the spawn. The game also sets rules about what Pokemon are available at all, where in the world those Pokemon are, and how frequently they are available, which allows the game to create a scarcity of rare and sought after Pokemon. The rules for spawning drive a core dynamic: finding Pokemon.

However, once one has found the Pokemon they want to catch, they still need to catch it. To catch a Pokemon, one throws a chosen ball at the Pokemon, and one must time their throw to miss the Pokemon’s attacks. If one successfully catches a Pokemon, they are awarded XP that contributes to leveling up and candies that can be used to evolve or power up Pokemon. The game has several mechanisms at play to determine whether one will catch a given Pokemon. Different Pokemon are assigned probability ranges, which set the likelihood of a throw catching the Pokemon; within each Pokemon, the specific catch rate is determined by the Pokemon’s CP level, which is another mechanism determined by an unknown algorithm. The probability of catching is also influenced by the type of ball one throws and the quality of the throw (the closer to the displayed bullseye of the Pokemon at the right time, the higher the probability of catching). Additionally, one can feed the Pokemon berries to increase the likelihood. Finally, however, there are also certainly unknown mechanisms at play to determine whether one catches the Pokemon. Combining these mechanisms for throwing and catching result in the other core dynamic: collecting Pokemon.

These dynamics result in the delightful, surprising fun of the game. One hopes to open the game to find new or rare Pokemon. Maybe someone loves Flying Pokemon, so they check the game when it’s windy outside, or maybe the game has announced a new Pokemon is being released, so someone walks around town until they see one. Then, one has to strategically utilize resources to increase the likelihood of catching the desired Pokemon. Hoping to catch a new Pokemon to add to their collection, gain enough candy to evolve it, or grind to catch everything for XP to level up: the motivations are diverse. However, the fun is centered around the discovery of Pokemon and the race to level up.

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