Just two weeks ago, it was my understanding Pokémon were just various colors of Pikachu.

As of the morning of July 10, I did not even know how to work a Pokéstop and could not figure out how to make them give me stuff.

I was 15 when the first Pokémon game came out—we were playing Quake. I knew nothing about the Pokéverse until Pokémon Go dropped, and I still don't understand how electric types fare against bug types.

But because my job prompts a natural curiosity about any emerging trend, and because I was on vacation last week, as of press time I find myself at level 22 with 99 different Pokémon caught. I'm the best player at Willamette Week, and pretty much any time I show up to a gym battle I've got the bigger, stronger monsters.

Here's how I did it, and some tips on how you can do the same if you're willing to spend some time and money on the game.

Don't use your real name as your Pokémon trainer name…

There's only one way to get a new Pokémon trainer name, and it's if you use identifiable information in your handle. The problem: The Niantic support email is so overwhelmed that it won't even see your request for a change. I stupidly used Martincizmar as my handle, so you'll know where I am at all times. Don't be like me, fellow olds!

To get stuff at a Pokéstop, swipe left to spin the wheel…

This is surprisingly counterintuitive! I've had to show a few other olds how to do this. Once you learn how to do this, and how to toss the Pokéballs at the monsters, you've got the basics down.

Don't waste time when the game freezes…

Even when the servers are up, Pokémon Go freezes more than any other app on my phone. The moment things stop happening, quit and restart by double-tapping your home button and swiping up to close the window. Reopen the game and hope it saved your progress—it seems like you have 50-50 odds.

Work on tossing a curveball with your thumb…

In the beginning, it's easy just to toss a Pokéball at the green circle and catch the creature. Once the circles get yellow or red, and once you start seeing Pokémon with a Combat Power above 100, you're going to need to develop a curve, wherein you spin the ball around a little before releasing it so that it flies at an angle that makes it harder for the monster to escape.

My advice: Start practicing with your thumb. The curve is easier with your index finger, but you'll eventually get too lazy to use two hands anyway, so work on the more practical thumb technique early and often.

Join a team that's the opposite of the ones controlling gyms near your home and office…

I'm blue, which means I can't capture any of the blue-held gyms near the WW office. If I had it to do over again, I'd be yellow since only like 12 people in the country are yellow.

If you want a Pikachu, look up sightings online…

I can confirm there are Pikachus spawned just east of the Oregon Convention Center and near the pond in Laurelhurst Park, where I got mine. But if you Google around, you'll find maps where other players have spotted them.

Pro tip: Remember that Pikachus are cute, but not especially useful in the game. I still wanted one enough to get up from a nice dinner and chase one, and you may feel the same.

Spend some money…

There are two big advantages we olds have in Pokémon Go.

First, many of us are grandfathered into unlimited data plans, meaning we can chase monsters without thinking twice about network usage.

Second, we remember a time when you had to pay to be entertained. There were no free games when I was a kid. A Nintendo cartridge cost $50, same as it does now—and that's with inflation.

So far I've spent $40 on lures, magic eggs, incubators and the like. I have no regrets.

Seriously, buy some incubators…

The eggs you collect at Pokéstops contain monsters you hatch by walking. You get one free incubator that has unlimited use, and you will sometimes get a free three-use incubator when you level up. But you can hold up to nine eggs at a time, although any other incubators will need to be purchased. If you spend the money to buy incubators—about a buck—you can incubate your eggs concurrently instead of consecutively. Some of those eggs will hatch Zubats and Pidgeys, sure, but I've got a Charmander, a Butterfree, a Tentacruel and a Chansey.

Also, it's possible that gamemaker Niantic saw fit to show me a Porygon on the street instead of someone who is not a paying customer.

Dump your revives and potions when you need space to hold more stuff…

Not only do the normal healing potions pale in power to the stronger stuff, until you're serious about gym battles, you won't need them. Better to hold onto more Pokéballs—I actually had to buy Pokéballs at one point because I'd been holding useless stuff instead.

Have a strategy for your stardust…

To power up your Pokémon for gym fights, you'll need stardust. Right now, the serious players are hoarding the stardust they get from grinding through Pidgeys until they get the stronger, rarer creatures available later in the game. I didn't get that memo, and powered up several smallish Hypnos and Golbats before I realized how precious the stuff was.

If you already made the mistake I did, my suggestion is to buy lots of incubators and take your powered-up Pokémon to the gym—you get five times as much stardust for holding gyms as you do for catching another Rattata.

Remember that you can have some fun with your monster names…

For example, on vacation I captured Fenway Park and stationed a creature named "Sox Suck" there. Everyone knows exactly who did that since I used my real full name as my handle.