Over the last week the world has become obsessed with catching Pokémon again thanks to Nintendo and Niantic’s new game, Pokémon GO. But as friendships have formed thanks to the augmented reality game for Android and iOS devices, bitter rivalries have begun due to the game’s divisive team system.
Upon reaching Level 5, players are given the option to join one of three teams that’s not unlike a House in Game of Thrones, except no one has died at a wedding (yet). Each team is represented by one of three mascots, so-called Legendary Pokémon that few have yet to catch in the game: Mystic, represented by the ice and water-type Articuno; Valor, represented by the firebird Moltres; and Instinct, an electric house symbolized by Zapdos.
Aside from the cool names and community-created slogans, there’s nary a difference between the three … at least technically. You’re free to pick based on something as innocuous as your favorite color (blue for Mystic, red for Valor, yellow for Instinct), which seems like what most people are doing. Nobody is limited to the types of Pokémon they’re allowed to catch and train because of their team either, you can catch all the fire and water-type Pokémon you want even if you’re with Instinct.
But there is one very, very important thing to consider before you choose: Which team is dominating the area where you live and play the game?
How Gyms Work
It’s a bit like super nerdy street gangs. Teams are able to take control of gyms like territories, and rival teams can fight to take control of the gyms away. If you’re competing at a rival team’s gym, you must beat every player defending that gym, which can range from anywhere between one to seven players (this is the “Gym Level”). You also just can’t beat them once; you have to beat them enough until their gym reputation diminishes to zero, at which point the gym is free for your taking.
And this is why picking the right team is so important: If you’re not a member of a team that’s dominant in your area, leveling up will be especially hard. There’s a ton of benefits one gets for claiming a gym; every 21 hours, gym members can claim Pokecoins (currency to purchase items) and Stardust (currency to level up Pokémon).
Not that you aren’t able to survive without those daily rewards. You can, but your journey will be much harder if you have to keep exploring or use real money to buy items instead of claiming what is essentially a free allowance every morning.
How to Coordinate or Find Members of a Team
Consider yourself lucky that we live in an interconnected age. Even if you’ve chosen a team that’s outnumbered in your neighborhood, you can find compatriots on Reddit, which has spawned dedicated subreddits for each team: r/PokemonGOValor, r/PokemonGOYellow, and r/PokemonGOMystic. Everyone is in your position right now asking for support, so don’t be shy.
You can also find members via Facebook, which is quickly populating with communities for Pokémon GO players in specific regions and cities. Just this weekend I joined several groups: One for east coasters, one for New Jersey residents, and another for players at my alma mater, Rutgers University.
In Pokémon GO, you are not alone. You have allies out there, you just have to find them.
One last thing…
Team Valor rules. #WhatIsRedMayNeverDie