Pokemon Go has added face masks as a new in-game item for player avatars, the latest impact that COVID-19 has had on the game. Pokemon Go made a number of minor changes late last night, including a new form of apparel for in-game avatars - masks. These masks look similar to the face masks recommended by public health officials for use in public settings to limit the spread of COVID-19. Thanks to the update, players can have their avatars wear simple face masks - white for male avatars and black for female avatars. Both masks are currently available for free, and we'll likely see "premium" masks (which can be purchased with Poke Coins) available for sale before too long. Pokemon Go will distribute special "Verizon" masks for players participating in a sponsored event next month.
The new in-game apparel reflects the latest change COVID-19 has had on Pokemon Go. The game had to shift from its model of in-person events and casual social gatherings to a more isolated play style. Pokemon Go encouraged social distancing by increasing the distance players could interact with PokeStops and other in-game locations. Other changes, such as reduced egg distances, were also temporarily implemented, but were rolled back last month.
Ironically, the masks don't interact well with certain other avatar items, which will result in the avatar not wearing the mask correctly. Since the masks are only effective when worn over the nose and mouth, we've already seen a few social media posts noting how Pokemon Go is even capturing the frustration of seeing someone wear a mask the wrong way.
You can equip your in-game avatar with a face mask by tapping on the "Style" menu on your player menu. There is a new "mask" submenu with the free mask available to wear. The default option is to wear no mask at all.