Around the Pokémon Go map you will see, in addition the small PokéStops, large structures. These are gyms, and you can access them once you get to level five.

When you enter a gym for the first time, you’ll be asked to swear allegiance to a team, each represented by a color and a characteristic: Yellow (Instinct), Blue (Mystic), and Red (Valor). Selecting a particular team doesn’t appear to make any difference to your individual character, but that could change in future versions of the game.

Each gym is controlled by one of these three teams. Because it is still so early in Pokémon Go, there is a lot of turnover in gym control, particularly in densely populated areas, so don’t worry too much about selecting the “best” team in your area. However, if other massive online games are any guide, dominant political forces will eventually emerge.

There are three ways you can interact with gyms:

  1. Train and test your squad by battling friendly Pokémon in a gym controlled by your team.
  2. Defend a gym controlled by your team by contributing one of your Pokémon to it.
  3. Attack and attempt to take over gyms controlled by opposing teams.

Gym Prestige

Gyms in the Pokémon universe are partly about training, but mostly about cred. The goal is to stake a claim for your team and create a gym that is difficult to defend. Crucial to this in Pokémon Go is the concept of a gym’s prestige, and all three of the things listed above are related to it.

Each gym has a level, which corresponds to the number of Pokémon that can be used to defend it. So a level 5 gym can have five different defending Pokémon.

If your goal is to attack and take over a gym, you will need to reduce its prestige to zero. You will first need to take out all of the Pokémon defending the gym. But that is only the start, as this does not necessarily give the gym over to you; it only reduces its prestige level. You’ll have to keep defeating the entire gym until its prestige gets all the way to zero, at which point the gym will become gray, and you’ll be able to move in.

You can also help fortify gyms belonging to your team by training and testing your Pokémon there. A gym gains prestige for each battle it wins, even if it is against a player of its own team. So you can battle against friendly Pokémon repeatedly until your gym gains another level, which will then open up another defensive spot, and allow you to contribute one of your Pokémon to the gym’s fortification. Keep in mind that whichever Pokémon you leave behind will not be available for anything else unless it gets kicked out of the gym by an enemy team.

Benefits of gyms

The gym system is a bit complicated, and you may be wondering why you should be bothering with it at all. There are two main benefits of interacting with gyms: experience and bonus items.

Each battle you win at a gym gives you XP, which becomes increasingly scarce as you catch all of the most common Pokémon. Also, for each Pokémon you have stored in a gym, you will receive 500 Stardust and 10 PokéCoins once every 24 hours. Aside from using real money, this appears to be the only way in the game to earn PokéCoins.