Chances are someone in your life is playing Pokémon Go. It's the newest game craze. And, it has kids and adults alike off the couch, away from their computers and gaming consoles, and glued to their mobile devices.
"Summer, when kids are off of school, is usually when families have peak internet use at home," says DeAnne Boegli, national public relations manager for TDS. "But this year, with so many people outside playing Pokémon Go, we're betting the network usage numbers are going to be lower."
If you'd like to know what the Pokémon fuss is all about (and why there are people hanging out in your neighborhood park), TDS explains the basics.
What is it? Think of it like a treasure hunt -- only the treasure is Pokémon monsters. Players "find" them in the real world by using a cell phone and essentially play the "hot or cold" game. The mobile app visually shows players whether they're hot/close to the Pokémon or cold/further away.
Players try to find and "catch" all different kinds of Pokémon by throwing a ball-shaped trap (Pokéballs) at each monster. Once players capture Pokémon, they "evolve" them to make them stronger and win virtual battles against other people.
Why are people hanging out at my local park? It's probably a Poké Stop or Poké Gym. These are real life places where players can visit and get free virtual game-related items. In the app, a Poké Stop looks like two blue floating boxes tethered to the ground, but to the naked eye they're often local points of interest.
"It's why you'll see people hanging out in certain spots," explained Missy Kellor, a mom and TDS employee who recently started playing Pokémon Go with her son. "In the game, you want to be next to certain landmarks--things like art, fountains and murals--so you can get items that help you play and advance in the game."
Gyms are similar to Poké Stops. They're real-world places that Pokémon players need to go. Rather than getting free stuff, Pokémon players go to gyms to train or battle Pokémon.
How do you win? It's not a game that has an ending. Instead, the goal is to build a strong Pokémon team and become a more experienced Pokémon "trainer."
Is Pokémon Go safe? That depends on the eye of the beholder. There are concerns about kids being lured into dangerous situations and reports of injuries due to inattention -- people falling off curbs, walking in front of cars, etc. There were also some initial worries about how much information the app could access, but that has been apparently addressed in the latest update.
"I've told my son to follow some reasonable guidelines -- don't go onto private property, don't go anywhere you wouldn't normally, bring water, and go with a buddy," said Kellor. "I do recommend going out with your kids because you'll have fun and it's a great excuse to be a little more active!"