You’re either completely obsessed with or sick of hearing about Pokémon GO by now. Nintendo’s second mobile foray allows you to collect Pokémon using your real-world location, battle other players, and pick a team with which to take over your local area.
In addition to encouraging players to actually leave the house and wander around outside, the game is already responsible for a few good deeds and feel-good news stories. Despite a simple premise, early server problems, and some ill-founded scaremongering from the mainstream press, the game has received a good amount of praise from players.
So if you were wondering what Pokémon GO can do for you, here’s a few positive ways the game can affect your life.
Getting Out & Improving Mental Health
According to a 2014 study conducted by Frontiers in Psychology, “there is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits.” The same scientific journal later published a paper that claimed “emotional and intellectual connections that people can make in videogames can have therapeutic implications.”
Pokemon Go is the best thing to happen to my mental health in the last four years
— Robin Rush (@RamenRush) July 10, 2016
While such findings should always be taken with a pinch of salt, Pokémon GO mixes both of these concepts. While much of the game is spent wandering around urban environments, if you want to catch ’em all then you’re encouraged to seek out a variety of locations. I’ve personally found that parks, waterways, and green spaces are especially good for catching rarer Pokémon, and nearly every park or patch of grass in my neighborhood doubles as a PokéStop.
#PokemonGO is going to do wonders for my mental health, providing me with purpose and reason to go outside at last.
— Drew Dale ???? (@drwdal) July 6, 2016
Shortly after the game’s launch, there were a flurry of reports from players who suffer from depression and anxiety claiming that Pokémon GO has had a positive effect on their mental health. Merely leaving the house to get some exercise is proven to have a positive effect on mood and outlook, and for some users the game has provided some much-needed motivation to actually leave the house.
— Jessica L. Conditt (@JessConditt) July 13, 2016
It’s important not to exaggerate the benefits too much but, in a world where we’re often told that technology can exacerbate depression, it’s nice to see some positive effects of such a game on players’ mental health. Don’t forget that there are many other ways the Internet can help you through hard times.
Boosting Your Business
On Sunday I was walking around my neighborhood looking for Pokémon while picking up some groceries. Amazed by the number of people walking around flicking Pokéballs at virtual creatures, my partner and I got caught up in the excitement and wandered over to a lure in a nearby park. While hanging around waiting for encounters, we noticed there was a café open and decided to refuel for the walk back.
The proprietor noticed were were playing Pokémon GO and excitedly said “you know there’s two lures in the park now right?” We explained that was the whole reason we’d walked 500 meters away from our intended destination, at which point he revealed that he was considering using the nearby PokéStops to lure not only Pokémon but opportune customers like us in future.
It’s very possible that certain businesses (cafés, eateries, fast food outlets, bars, and other nightlife spots) can already start taking advantage of the game to attract more players to their location. The photo above from Redditor jennej_dtsab is just one example of a business trying to get in on the action. This will become a far bigger deal in future when developer Niantic adds sponsored PokéStops to the app, and there are even plans to add more functionality to the PokéStops themselves:
“There is some thinking about how to further modify and evolve PokéStops and gyms. Players will be able to shape them and add functionality to them by working collaboratively together, so that’s an area that we’ll be spending quite a bit of effort over the coming weeks and months on.”
Niantic, Pokémon GO‘s developers speaking to Game Informer
Could Pokémon GO become the new Foursquare, with discounts and other benefits from patrons who stop by? Who knows, but the new sponsored locations and Niantic’s decision to take feedback from users about new PokéStop and gym locations should be a boon to those playing in rural or suburban areas where the experience has been described as lacking.
Meet The Neighborhood
One side-effect of playing Pokémon GO is that you stick out like a sore thumb to anyone else who is playing. Not only do players hang around lures, gyms, and in parks or other green areas, they recognize the flick of a Pokéball, and I’ve even been known to shoot a cursory glance at other suspected players’ phones while walking past (most of the time they’re playing too).
Last night I had a leader at my local gym high-five me for being on the same team as him, exclaiming that he’d just won it back for our team. This morning a 40-something-year old man shouted “Pokémon?!” at me while I was walking home from the (real life, physical exercise) gym, thrusting his phone in the air in approval. You’re probably not forming lasting relationships with these random strangers, but there’s no denying it’s a surprisingly social experience.
Many players are taking this to the next level with real-world meetups, like the thousands of people who agreed to attend an event in Chicago’s Millenium Park on Facebook. In California, local NBA team Sacramento Kings invited fans to a pre-game meetup, and there are events being organised in most major cities and neighborhoods on local get-together service MeetUp.
Some players in Washington DC came together to clean up some Pokémon GO-related graffiti from a park, while others are using their long walks to hatch eggs as an opportunity to clean up litter. Journalists are even pontificating (as journalists do) over whether the app could help some users find love, with articles popping up websites like Australian blog Daily Life and international tech magazine Wired.
Dogs Love Pokémon Too
Many users are reporting that their dogs have never been on such long walks as a result of their desire to hatch eggs. In Pokémon GO users collect eggs from PokéStops and when leveling up which have a distance attached to them. Walk the required distance (2, 5, or 10 KM) to hatch the egg, and get a new Pokémon.
While physical exercise is good for those on four legs, it’s good for you too. Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana has gone a step further asked users looking to hatch an egg or go exploring for rare Pokémon to drop by and take a dog for a walk while they do so. Just remember if you are thinking of exercising your (or anyone else’s) dog while playing to pay proper attention and clean up afterwards!
How Are You Playing Pokémon GO?
We’d love to hear your own stories about Pokémon GO, whether the app has encouraged you to explore more of your city, helped you form friendships, or merely given you a good reason to get off the sofa and collect ’em all.
What do you think is next for Pokémon GO? Let us know in the comments below.