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Pokemon Go: Gyms, candy, pokeballs and everything else you need to know

CNET logo CNET 10-07-2016 Sean Hollister
Juan Garzón / CNET© Provided by CNET Juan Garzón / CNET

Pokemon has made its way onto iOS and Android, but this time, it's different.

Pokemon Go is nothing like the Gameboy game you remember -- it's a free mobile game that lets you see Pokemon through the window of your phone as if they existed in the real world. Then, you can catch them. ("Gotta catch 'em all!")

It's also wildly popular: Pokemon Go was just released Tuesday and it's already the No. 1 free app in the US iTunes App Store.

If you're an absolute Pokemon beginner, here's everything you need to know.

Why do people care so much?

Remember the '90s? Kids growing up back then played Pokemon video games on their Game Boys, watched Pokemon cartoons and movies, and battled it out with Pokemon cards during their lunch breaks at school. And...new generations of kids never really stopped doing that. (The last two Nintendo 3DS video games sold 25 million copies, combined.)

BTW, Pokemon is short for "pocket monster." They're tiny monsters. (Pokemon is a Japanese compound word, and is both singular and plural.)

The internet servers hosting the game are having a LOT of trouble. It seems like the game's developer, Niantic, didn't anticipate this much demand. They've actually postponed the game's launch in certain countries until they can fix it.

And, unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it. If you launch the game and you get the error message, you'll have to keep checking back.

Why don't they just call it Pokemon Go Away We're Busy?

You think you're clever, don't you.

OK, I'm trying to create a new player. Why doesn't Nintendo like my name?

That field is for your username, not your actual name. A lot of other people around the world share your actual name, and one of them already claimed it. Sorry.

Where are all the Pokemon hiding?

So, the premise of Pokemon Go is that these pocket monsters are hidden around our real world -- literally. You need to go look for them; when they get close enough, they'll appear on your in-game radar and then you can try to catch them.

How do I move?

You walk. Like, with your body. You walk around town, the park, the mall, your workplace, until you find a Pokemon. Then, you try to catch it.

Why do I have these red and white balls? (Should I see a doctor?)

Ahem. The balls are for catching the Pokemon. It's a time-honored tradition that, to catch a Pokemon, you throw a ball at it. The ball slurps it up like a vacuum cleaner, or something. And then, according to the rules of Pokemon, it belongs to you.

When you tap and hold your pokeball, a white circle appears around your target. Inside that white circle is a green circle that expands and contracts. Apparently, when the green circle is at its smallest, that's the best time to swipe/flick your pokeball at your quarry. Failing that, you could just do what I do and flick at random.

Why am I enslaving a race of tiny animals?

To get them to fight for you, of course! (No, that doesn't make it better.) You're catching and raising animals to fight for your amusement, and perhaps getting them to evolve into more powerful ones. Here's a paper that argues that Pokemon aren't exactly slaves, though.

How do they fit in tiny little balls?

Nobody knows. Except maybe this guy. It sure does look cramped in there.

Is this animal cruelty?

Maybe.

Do they have a catch-and-release program?

No. Unlike previous Pokemon video games, you can't actually release Pokemon back into the wild. You can only transfer them to the Professor, who turns them into gives you candy in exchange.

What are the little blue floating cubes on my map for?

Those are PokeStops. Approach one, and when you get close the cube should morph into a spinning disc. Tap on it, then flick your finger across the disc in the center of the screen that pops up to send that disc spinning. Sometimes, you'll get items that can help you power up your Pokemon.

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