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Pokemon Go has a new buddy system, but be careful what you do with it

Posted September 19

APTOS, CALIFORNIA - JULY 11, 2016: The hit augmented reality smartphone app "Pokemon GO" shows a Pokemon encounter overlain on a college campus in the real world. (Deseret Photo)

The Pokemon Go craze may be winding down, but a new update for the app has given children a chance to find companionship with a pocket monster.

As Mashable reported, the latest update to the app allows gamers to choose a “buddy” — a Pokemon who travels along with them closely. Pikachu and Ash, the main character of the Pokemon animated series, are a prime example of this.

To make this change, gamers have to click a picture of their avatar’s face in the bottom corner, select “Buddy” and then choose from their list of Pokemon. This will update their character’s screen, where it’ll now show the avatar along with the chosen critter.

The new buddy system gives gamers certain benefits, and fits into the game’s charge to encourage children to exercise more often.

The Pokemon buddy will show a progress bar with a specific distance that gamers will have to walk in order to receive a “candy.” This is something that gamers should already be familiar with, thanks to the egg-hatching process, where players have to walk a distance before one of their eggs hatches into a new Pokemon.

As gamers know, candies can help Pokemon evolve into their next form or power up.

“The clever thing about the buddy system is that different Pokémon require different distances in order to find candy. Common, garden-variety Pidgeys only need to be walked 1 km to find candy, for instance, whereas rarer Pokémon like Lapras require a more hefty 5 km,” according to Mashable.

Which Pokemon Go should you choose as a buddy? That remains unclear. But Patricia Hernandez of gaming website Kotaku recommends gamers choose Magikarp — the borderline useless fish that flops around — as their buddy since it requires a lot of distance to evolve.

But, regardless of who you choose, the new addition to the app will encourage you to walk more to help a Pokemon evolve — fitting with Pokemon Go’s longstanding goal to encourage fitness among its players.

As Amy Donaldson of the Deseret News reported back in July when the app first gained traction, the game has encouraged young people to get outside while gaming, a welcomed switch to the traditional model of playing video games on a television screen.

In fact, a study from Cardiogram, a popular fitness app on the Apple Watch, found that Pokemon Go encouraged about 45 percent of gamers to exercise 30 minutes or more, according to The Washington Post. And that number only seems to be growing.

“The fact that it’s a population-level effect that’s visible is actually pretty impressive on Pokémon Go’s part,” Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger told The Washington Post.

But parents should be careful if they’re looking to encourage their child to play this game. Digital Trends reported this week that there’s a third-party app in the Google Play store that may be a little more nefarious than it lets on.

The app, called Guide for Pokemon Go, promises new users that it will teach newcomers all the tips, tricks and skills needed to become a Pokemon master. But it turns out there’s a malevolent aspect to the app, since it’s laced with malware code that could allow a hacker to infiltrate your phone, according to Digital Trends.

Kaspersky Labs’ Roman Unuchek wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that the app has already broken into 6,000 phones, and more damage may be on the way.

“Analysis reveals that the app contains a malicious piece of code that downloads rooting malware — malware capable of gaining access to the core Android operating system,” he said.

Unuchek said this could be especially dangerous since some online criminals plan to log into your device and steal money from gamers’ bank accounts.

He suggested that it would be best to delete the app so that your information doesn’t get hacked in the future.

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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