Pokemon GO Is Changing How People Use Their Smartphones. But Is That A Good Or A Bad Thing?

Pokemon Go Health Benefits and Cons

Pokemon GO is the new gaming craze sweeping the world, as you probably are already aware if you have been online in the last few weeks.

Released on July 6, Pokemon GO (http://www.pokemongo.com/en-us/) is a smartphone based, augmented reality game created by Niantic, makers of the game Ingress. Players become Pokemon trainers and must walk around in real life to catch Pokemon that are integrated into real life places via camera phone.

There are PokeStops, where players can spin a wheel to collect various items needed in game, as well as PokeGyms, where players can level up their Pokemon. All of the stops and gyms are real life places (like monuments, historical sites, and murals) that players must walk to in order to reap the benefits.

This fusion between electronic based entertainment and the real world has created issues never before seen with regular video games. For instance, a teen in Redding, CA was stabbed by people trying to rob him and his friends while they were playing the game at 2am in a local park.

People are also posting on Reddit and other forums that they got hurt, or almost hurt, while playing the game because they weren’t paying attention.

Messages like, “Not even 30 minutes after the release last night, I slipped and fell down a ditch. Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot, 6-8 weeks for recovery…Watch where you’re going, folks!”, and “I almost got hit by a car running across the street to catch a Pikachu!” have been popping up everywhere on social media.

Earlier this month, two young men fell down a cliff while trying to catch Pokemon in Encinitas, CA. According to CNN, they fell an estimated 50 to 90 feet down the cliff, despite there being warning signs and a fence posted near the cliff. Similar reports have been appearing multiple times a week on news and social media sites since the Pokemon Go craze began.

There’s even one man whose private residence is a PokeGym in the game. The house used to be a church and is still listed as a public place. Many stops and gyms in the game are churches, which is probably why his house was tagged as a gym also.

Boon Sheridan, owner of the house, seems congenial about the matter, posting funny tweets about the situation and wanting to meet people who are training at his gym. He even introduced himself to the in game “owner” of the gym.

Despite the new real life issues happening with this game, there are multiple positive aspects of Pokemon GO as well.

Within the last week, numerous Twitter, Facebook, and other social media users have claimed the game is helping them with their depression and social anxiety.

It’s getting people out of the house and moving. Some gamers are walking 4 miles or more in a day to catch Pokemon, when normally they would never have left the house. Preliminary statistics from Cardiogram, FitBit, and Apple Watch show a significant increase in people’s activity since Pokemon GO was launched. 

Many players are posting statements on social media like @uglycatlady, “Real talk – as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal.”

Additionally, the game is giving people something to talk about, making it easier for people with social anxiety to interact with strangers. The game offers a Lure Module, an item that, when used at a PokeStop, will lure wild Pokemon to the area for 30 minutes. When players see these modules on a stop (indicated by pink falling petals), numerous people will gather in the area to catch Pokemon. These people often end up interacting with each other, talking about the game, their highest level Pokemon, and other game related things. Victoria Renee Wafe states, “…for the first time in probably years I don’t feel nervous going up to people and starting up a conversation. I believe it is because I know we have something in common that’s fun too.” 

Even businesses are getting in on the Pokemon craze by offering specials for Pokemon Trainers.

Many businesses are PokeStops or PokeGyms, and considering the large amount of data needed to play the game, trainers flock to these places because of free Wi-Fi. They may drop a lure and sit for 30 or more minutes, waiting for Pokemon to come to them, all while ordering food and drink from the business they’re patronizing.

All in all, considering the game has been out for only a few weeks, it is too soon to tell if it will be revolutionary for health, exercise, and commerce, or if it will become yet another way to escape the real world.

Kari Cowell
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