You teach me and I'll teach you
Hold onto that plastic Pokedex, because the bottled hopes and dreams of your childhood (and/or adulthood, no judgment) are finally coming true: Pokemon Go, a game that lets you catch Pokemon in the real world, is coming to Android and iOS in 2016. A cooperative effort between The Pokemon Company and the augmented-reality developers at Niantic, Inc, Pokemon Go will have you traveling across the land, searching far and wide for Pokemon at various real locations based on GPS technology. Now you really can be the best that no one ever was!
While the specifics of the game are currently under wraps, it's not hard to see how Pokemon Go could end up being huge. And because it has the chance to get so big, and relies entirely on social participation, there's also the chance that the whole experiment could go very, very wrong without some behavioral ground rules. Niantic and The Pokemon Company will likely have some ideas of their own built into the game, but I would like to propose something more: some basic etiquette for playing Pokemon Go that, if adhered to, will keep the game fun and catastrophe-free. Remember: we're all best friends, and this is a world we must defend.
Don't mix Pokemon Go and roads
This really, really shouldn't have to be stated, but people have done dumber things involving roads for digital gain. So, I'm going to put this right up front: don't run into the street to catch a Pokemon. Not even a really good one. You don't need to catch 'em all so badly that you catch a hood ornament to the hip.
This goes for any mixture of Pokemon Go and roads. Don't stop in a crosswalk to catch a Pokemon. Don't block access to driveways or side streets to declare battle. And for the love of Arceus, do not check to see where a Pokemon is while driving - find a place to park and then chase that sucker down safely. If you'd become a social pariah for doing it for a selfie, don't do it for Pokemon Go.
Don't engage in battle on public transport, especially to take advantage of players in a hurry
There's something charming about the way Nintendo games get you to engage with strangers in everyday life, say while grocery shopping or commuting to work. But unlike StreetPass, Pokemon Go's battles will undoubtedly require active participation, which can be tough when you're on the train and your stop's coming up.
As tempting as it might be to engage someone on the morning ride to work, be considerate of their schedule. If you know the guy who gets on at the stop after you has an hour-long ride ahead of him, feel free, but random strangers might not be able to see a battle through before they reach their stop. If Pokemon Go plays anything like the Pokemon handheld games, that'll be marked as a loss for them, and unfairly so. As a courtesy to your fellow players, don't put them in that situation. And if you're doing it on purpose, using the realities of adult life to net cheap wins, you're a dick.
Don't be a jerk if you and a group don't manage to catch a rare Pokemon
One of the most interesting features in the Pokemon Go announcement trailer is group events, where players can band together to battle and capture an ultra-rare Pokemon. Naturally, the throng of fashionably dressed twenty-somethings in the trailer pull it off at the last second, but where there are time limits, there are potentials for failure. You may one day find yourself on the losing end of a team battle with a Pokemon you desperately wanted to catch. And despite the soul-crushing disappointment, the best way to respond is with an "Oh well" and a shrug, not anger toward your equally disappointed teammates.
Not that I expect most players to go ballistic on a stranger for losing a battle of Pokemon, but there's always that one person who takes the game too seriously and ruins everyone else's fun (the bane of little league ice cream parties everywhere). Don't be that person, and remember that losing with grace keeps the community fun, as opposed to an exercise in tolerating assholes.
Don't interrupt time out with your loved ones to catch Pokemon
You won't get arrested for not following this rule, but you will most certainly be That Friend That Nobody Wants to Hang Out With. It's already annoying enough if you text through an entire meal with friends or family, or won't stop checking your phone when you're out on the town, but if you run off to catch imaginary monsters when you're all just walking into a movie? Your loved ones are definitely going to name you something unpleasant in their contact list, and rightly so.
While society is still feeling out how cell phone etiquette should work, it's generally agreed that focusing all your attention on your phone during friend or family-time is a social faux pas, and Pokemon Go should fall squarely under that rule. Put the phone down and focus on the real person in front of you trying to have a conversation. Or, alternatively, get them playing too, so you can both rush to pay the check and catch that passing Jellicent. That way you'll have something new to bond over, rather than a passive-aggressive message on your Facebook feed.
Don't go anywhere you know is private
Niantic, Inc., the developer of Pokemon Go, is pretty good as separating public and private spaces. The team's previous credits include a similar augmented-reality game, Ingress, and Google Maps, so they've had plenty of practice. But still, that doesn't account for temporarily private locations like wedding sites or campgrounds, or even glitches in the system that say your grandma's living room is part of the bowling alley next door.
So, while Pokemon Go probably won't lead to bathroom-invading chaos, it's still good to think with your human brain and make sure you're not tailing Pokecreatures through a private venue. Be aware of your surroundings, and evaluate each Pokemon pursuit on a case-by-case basis. Like the don't-run-into-traffic rule, it's a matter of safety and courtesy, and will ensure you don't go ruining someone's quinceanera.
Don't be disruptive or obnoxious to bystanders
In the age of smartphones and Vine videos, being a jackass in public has become a beloved pastime, at least for those who practice it. And while hilarious videos of people loudly having Pokemon battles in the grocery store is inevitable, that could brand every Pokemon Go player as a nuisance if it becomes too disruptive. Doesn't anyone remember what happened with Pokemon cards?
As "tempting" as it may be to confuse an elderly woman by screaming "PIKACHU I CHOOSE YOU!" while she's reading in the park, really - don't use Pokemon Go as a dickish way to get your 15 seconds of fame. Play the game in a way that's respectful to everyone around you and doesn't disturb their day, so you don't give other players a bad name. Or, if your desire to cause a scene can't be corralled like so much Snorlax into a Pokeball, at least make it enjoyable for your audience. Less screaming in public and more Subway Star Wars.
Be a good sport and have fun
Pokemon had the market cornered on nerdy competition before League of Legends was a twinkle in Riot Games' eye. Thus your interactions with other players will mostly be competitive. But that doesn't mean they have to be antagonistic. Good sportsmanship is key here, and will keep the game fun no matter what the outcome of battle.
As aggravating as it is to lose a match, don't take it out on your very human opponent the way you would an in-game trainer. Yelling at them will only foster hostility within the game, and trying to throw them at the wall with definitely get you arrested. At the same time, it's also important to win with grace, which means not being a total jerk to the players you beat. The nastiness of ultra-competitive games is often a huge roadblock to people joining up (which is critical to a social game like Pokemon Go), so stay courteous and sportsmanlike if you want the game to thrive. A simple "Good game!" or a hearty handshake will do (think Hearthstone, but real), and go a long way to keep the experience enjoyable for everyone.
If you catch a legendary Pokemon, give praise to the almighty Uxie
Legendary Pokemon don't just show up out of nowhere, and they don't end up in your Pokemon collection without a fight - we're talking beings that embody the skies, antimatter, existence itself pressed into your service. Netting one of your own takes luck, skill, and naturally, the blessing of the patron Pokemon god of knowledge, Uxie.
Upon catching a legendary Pokemon, you must provide an offering becoming of the bounty you have received. For example, an Articuno demands a sacrifice of twenty Pokemon stickers left at a forest shrine at midnight, while catching Giratina or Lugia requires the ritual burning of one Pokemon HeartGold cartridge. Ensure that this sacrifice is made in due time, for ingratitude to the bringer of all knowledge will leave the land fallow, its guide departed, and even the youngest newborn Caterpie will be hidden from trainer eyes. Seriously, don't ruin it for the whole neighborhood.