Pokémon Go isn't just a simple, pleasant game about catching Pokémon in the real world. It's also got a secret competitive side, thanks to the requirement that players join a faction once they're strong enough.
There are three separate teams — Team Mystic, Team Valor and Team Instinct — presented to the player after hitting level five, the moment in the game where many of its features finally open up. Upon entering a gym for the first time, Professor Willow will introduce you to his assistants. These three each lead their own gym-battling team, and Professor Willow forces you to join one before moving on. That's because when you're battling another gym, you do so on behalf of your team. No Pokémon trainer is an island, not in Pokémon Go.
Once you've picked your team, there are no changes. That's why it's important to think long and hard about your decision before signing on to defend a specific faction. Here's what you need to know before taking the plunge:
Spark is the leader of Team Instinct, the yellow team. Spark is all about trusting your instincts — hence the name of the team. (Spark is not one for nuance.) If you feel that Pokémon are innately talented, and that success in battle can be chalked up to trusting your gut, Instinct is probably the way to go. Team Instinct's mascot is the legendary bird Zapdos.
Blanche is in charge of Team Mystic, the brainiest of the bunch. The blue team is most interested in evolution; beyond that, the members of this faction are cool to a point of intimidation. If you're interested in the science behind what makes Pokémon tick — and are convinced that keeping calm is all it takes for success — choose Team Mystic. Mystic is represented by Articuno, the icy legendary.
Candela is the head of the red team, and she's got spunk for days. Her M.O. is very much in line with what Pokémon trainers have been taught from the get-go: To be the very best Pokémon master, you've got to train for it. Bonding with your Pokémon helps to tap into their strengths, according to Team Valor. If that sounds good to you, go Valor. Also, if you like the fire bird legendary Moltres, that's another reason to go with Valor; Moltres is its mascot.
Once you've chosen a team, you might find yourself investing even more time into Pokémon Go. That's because you now have a motivating factor: You're fighting on behalf of someone else now. You'll want to do your team leader proud by taking down other teams' gyms. None of this stuff is quantified, but it's a matter of principle.
Now that you've decided which team you're fighting for, go out there and find some gyms! If you need help, consult our guide on how to find PokéStops and gym locations. For some basics on battling and other Pokémon Go info, check out our FAQ.
Take our poll below and let us know which Pokémon Go team you belong to!
The most important question of the day: Which Pokémon Go team are you on?— Polygon (@Polygon) July 11, 2016
Update: The official art for each team leader has been revealed. Perhaps their full designs can inform your decision — or create further tensions between your rivals, as they already have for many players.
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