Improving Your Health with PokémonGO

This article was posted on 22 August 2016

Posted in Health Cover

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“Real talk - as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I've spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal. #PokémonGo” - @uglycatlady on Twitter.

Pokémon was all the rage in the 90’s and since its release in early July, Pokémon GO has become a global phenomenon. The application, developed by Niantic and released by The Pokémon Company (parented by Nintendo) for iOS and Android devices, is a free, location-based application and allow players to capture, train and battle Pokémon in a virtual reality. Besides it being very much addictive, there are some substantial physical and mental health benefits.


How does PokémonGO work?

The game/application uses the GPS and timer on your device to track Pokémon in your area. As you move around and change your location, your smart-device will notify you of Pokémon in the surrounding area allowing you to catch them using your screen. The correlation of the real world emerging with the virtual world is referred to as an ‘augmented reality’. Notable buildings such as churches, museums, historical landmarks and monuments act as PokéStops where you are able to install special items that attracts Pokémon and where you can collect eggs that will in time hatch and produce new Pokémon.


Gotta catch ‘em all

In order to catch Pokémon you have to get out into the world and look for them as they can be anywhere and everywhere – a whole physical as well as social experience. You can not advance to higher levels by sitting around and not moving and this encourages players to get off their behinds to look for Pokémon. If you have eggs, it generally takes you a walking distance of 2km (based on GPS location) in order for them to hatch. A young man from France who now lives in Cape Town, Maxime, says that although he prefers driving everywhere, he now enjoys walking everywhere he goes and that being outside has improved his mental vitality and stamina. Another Capetonian, who suffers with her weight can be quoted saying, “I have only been playing this game for a week but I have lost more weight than what I have in a month.”


Cope better with PokémonGO

Various social networks, including Twitter has been abuzz with users praising the PokémonGO game for allowing them out of their comfort zones, hash tagging it   . One user, @angel_kink says, “Is it weird that #PokemonGO is helping my depression? It's: -getting me out of my house -making me social -encouraging exercise.” Social anxiety is a mental disorder where a person has an exaggerated and irrational fear of social situations. People who suffers from this disorder have a constant fear of going out to socialise thinking they will be looked at, discussed and or judged and this can negatively affect their lives. This new app is actually encouraging users to go outside and enjoying themselves rather than laying in bed the whole day with nothing but depressing thoughts.


The reason why PokémonGO is so wildly successful is that it externalizes a fantasy that Pokémon devotees had when it was screened in the 90’s, that is to be a Pokémon master and be able to catch these creatures in real life. PokemonGO has already outpaced a number of apps and games in terms of popularity and it has only been around for a few weeks. With that said, you can be sure that folks will be roaming around hunting Pokémon, hooking up at PokéStops engaging in PokéTalk for a long while.


- Enzo Leigh Botes



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