The extraordinary success of Pokémon Go shows no signs of abating at the moment, reaching into many different areas of society way beyond mobile gaming and smartphone use, with even stores such as Asda (the UK version of Walmart) putting up guides for Pokémon trainers in the stores and promising to congratulate anyone who catches a Pikachu over the tannoy!
With all the many fun and heart-warming stories about the game there are, of course, also plenty of other reports of how the game can be misused by criminal elements for nefarious purposes, be it mugging those who are distracted by playing it, targeting people at PokéStops, for example.
However, the sheer joy of the effect Pokémon Go has had on people is palpable, and already there are reports about both the physical and mental health benefits of the game, such as a new paper from Texas A&M University, via ScienceDaily.
According to Matt Hoffman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing, “playing the game is a lot of fun, and it has been a catalyst to get people moving. What began as just playing the game has now become a hobby for me that provides certain health benefits. I’ve spent an hour or two at a time venturing around the community to find PokéStops. And, to hatch one egg, a trainer must walk anywhere from one to six miles. There’s no doubt about it, I am exercising more as a result of playing the game, and I am enjoying it.”
Hoffman, who is known as “The Pokémon Professor” by his co-workers, is just one of an estimated nine to 21 million daily Pokémon Go users, according to Science Daily. He says that another benefit of the game is the feeling of community it engenders.
“There is a sense of community when trainers converge in search of Pokémon, or when they gather together at PokéStops. The game is bringing people together, providing opportunity for social interaction and increasing our sense of belonging, which can have a positive impact on our emotional and mental health.”
Also touching on mental health issues, a report on PsychCentral picks up on the many social media posts on Twitter and other platforms from users saying that Pokémon Go has helped with their social anxiety and depression by giving them a reason to go outside and talk to people.
Hoffman notes that Pokémon Go is also helping bridge the generational technological divide.
“This is a relatively non-violent game, and I have seen families walking around playing the game together. Or it encourages parents to go outside with their children while they play. Pokémon Go has the ability to transport families away from an evening on the couch to walking around the neighbourhood.”
But, of course, as previously mentioned, there is also a need to be cautious with the game, and consider the possible negative connotations, and Hoffman addresses this as well.
“We often hear of people falling off curbs or sustaining injuries as a result of staring at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings. It’s good to always keep safety and best practices in mind. Remember, you should never play Pokémon Go while driving. It’s also important to avoid playing in dark, isolated areas—there have been reports of trainers being robbed and attacked. Also, summer days are very hot, so use sunscreen and drink plenty of water before heading outside during peak heat times.”
Pokemon Go Reportedly Helping People’s Mental Health, Depression | World of Psychology