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Pokémon Go: Good for your Health?

Posted by Kevin Land on

Nature, animals, health, video games. One of those things doesn’t look like it belongs, right? Well Niantic’s new mobile game, Pokémon Go may be the first to change that.

Even if you never played a Pokémon game, or even any video game, odds are still good that you’ve at least heard of this new wildly popular app. The game has become a cultural phenomenon overnight, quickly become the top app on both Google’s and Apple’s app stores. According to Business Insider, just days after its release, users spend more time on Pokémon Go than Snapchat and it has more downloads than Tinder. The success of Pokémon Go is so immediate, that the value of Nintendo’s stock has doubled since it’s release.

Of course mobile games have been extremely popular for years and the Pokémon brand has been influential since 1999, so the popularity of the app isn’t so unexpected. What sets Pokémon Go apart from the likes of Candy Crush and Angry Birds is the way you play it. Far from the stereotype of kids sitting motionless behind a computer in their parents basements, Pokémon Go requires players to go outside and physically move about in the real world. The game uses your phone’s GPS system to display a real-time map of your area, much like Google Maps. Unlike google maps, though, this map is inhabited by hundreds of Pokémon that you can catch (150 different kinds, actually), all set to pop up at particular GPS coordinates. So you’re going to have get out your tennis shoes and do some cardio if you want to catch them all. And trust me, you gotta catch ‘em all.

This new take on gaming isn’t just good for Nintendo’s stock, but it’s also good for health of everyone playing it! Most immediately, Pokémon Go gives you exercise! It may not seem like much, but walking around just a little bit every day can do wonders for your health. The game allows you to hatch Pokémon eggs by walking either 2, 5 or 10 kilometers and  tracks your location and measures your movement based on your speed; move too fast (in a car, for example) and your distance doesn’t count. So if you wanna be the very best, be prepared to travel across the land, searching far and wide.

Additionally, Pokémon Go encourages its players to not just to walk, but to walk amongst nature. In the game, different types of Pokémon appear in areas that match their type. For example, the best place to catch water type Pokémon is near real life bodies of water. So if you’ve already caught a Charmander and a Bulbasaur, the best way to find a Squirtle and complete the trio is to take a long stroll down the beach. Not only does that sound lovely, but walks through nature are proven to improve your psychological and physical health. Simply by walking through your local nature trail hunting that Pikachu, you can lower your blood pressure and decrease your chance of mental illness later in life.

On their Pokémon adventures, some have even come across actual, real life animals. Morgan Jackson, biology and twitter enthusiast, has taken advantage of this opportunity and launched #PokeBlitz. Looking for a Scyther but find a strange bug you don’t recognize? Or looking for a Psyduck and find a real duck? Take a picture and tweet it to #PokeBlitz and an expert in the field will identify it for you! Imagine a child out looking for Pokémon and instead learning about a new type of bird or lizard. There’s so much potential for learning when going out and exploring, and Pokémon Go is the perfect tool to facilitate it.

So Pokémon Go can help your mind and body, what else? Well believe it or not, this is one video game that can improve your social life. In the game, PokéStops as well as Pokémon dot the map, placed on locations of cultural interest like sculptures or popular local businesses. Pokémon trainers can ‘lure’ these spots to draw Pokémon to that location. Remember how I mentioned that this app has more users than Tinder? Well everyone and their mothers will come to this location to take advantage of the lured Pokémon. The author of this Forbes article describes working at a park and seeing dozens of fellow trainers gathering to catch Pokémon, discuss tips and tricks, maybe even form friendships. This may be the most significant of Pokémon Go’s achievements, as anybody who’s played the games or seen the show will tell you, friendship is a core value of the Pokémon franchise.

With so much success in such a short time, there’s no telling where the app will Pokémon Go from here (sorry, i had to). Hopefully, app designers and game developers will take these lessons from Pokémon Go, and perhaps the next generation of video games will be just as healthy and popular.

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