The resurgence of Pokémon has taken the world by storm in the past week, and you would be hard pressed trying to find someone who had no knowledge of it. The Pokémon Go app has in its first few days revolutionised the gaming industry, taking players away from their TV’s and consoles and encouraging them to go outside and exercise.
Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game which brings Pokémon to life through your smartphone has become the most popular game in the world in just a number of days, and has already led health experts and leading psychologists to celebrate its innovative gameplay.
J Graham Thomas, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control Research Centre spoke positively about the game, “I think it’s an exciting development. For a long time, the technology and gaming industries have been associated with a decrease in physical activity and that has resulted in a lot of health problems.
“To see technology and gaming changing in a way that promotes physical activity and being around other people is really good.”
The game works by using your GPS, tracking your location as you move around outside. You play by walking around in the real world catching Pokémon as you go. There is an inbuilt Pokémon tracker within the game which displays nearby Pokémon. Players are then required to walk a number of footsteps in order to catch the Pokémon. The greater number of footprints indicates that a Pokémon is further away, thereby encouraging users to go out and about and walk until they catch them all.
Despite being at its peak in the 1990’s, the age of users ranges from teens, to adults aged between 20 and 30 who would have first experienced the franchise back when they were young. Pokémon go is set to change the way a lot of young people socialise, with Netflix binges being replaced with hikes to find Pokémon.
Psychologists too have praised the app, calling it ‘revolutionary’ as it has encouraged young people to socialise and communicate face to face outside, a feat which other initiatives have struggled with in the past 20 years. Dr. John Grohol, founder of the mental health network Psych Central, said, “The developers behind Pokémon Go didn’t mean to create a mental health gaming app. But they’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive.” Through the medium of gaming, Pokémon Go has manged to break down the barriers many people with mental illness face day to day. Those whose days have previously been plagued with anxiety and depression are now walking out and about, bumping into strangers and making friends, feats which would have previously been considered impossible.
Gamification is truly changing the health industry. Whether you’re playing through gaming technology such as Pokémon Go, or through physical initiatives such as Man Vs Fat Football, we’re all being encouraged to get up and do something. Through combining entertainment with weight loss users are becoming more active than they have ever been before, and not even realising it as they’re doing something fun at the same time.
It is not only health experts and psychologists that are noticing the impact the game has already made. Fitness apps such as Cardiogram and FitBit have noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of user movement, with users all over the world posting on social media about how far they have travelled in their quest to be the very best. Although this data only shows the increased movement of users who do have FitBit or Cardiogram, it does still show some interesting trends.
With the release of Pokémon Go in the UK (FINALLY), new Pokémon trainers need to approach the new game with caution to ensure a safe journey:
- Don’t train alone – If you are travelling to places that you haven’t been before, it can be dangerous. Try to travel with friends or family as you can all look out for each other. The journey to become a Pokémon master is a long arduous one, and one that shouldn’t be done alone.
- Look up from your screen once in a while – With many of us living in cities and towns, there is the danger that you could walk out into a busy main road trying to chase down a Pikachu. Whether you’re crossing the street or just walking about in general, take a glance at the road once in a while. You won’t be doing any Pokémon training with a broken leg.
- Stay healthy in all aspects of life – With all this added exercise, it is important to remember to eat a healthy diet. You won’t be walking very far if all you have to fuel you is junk food. Keep energy levels up with good carbohydrates and maintain a balanced diet and you’ll be able to track Pokémon for miles.
So to all you future Pokémon masters, stay safe and stay healthy while you catch them all.
Pokémon Go is available for download now via the iPhone and Android app stores.