The popularity of the mobile video game Pokémon Go may be contributing to a healthier lifestyle for many players, according to some experts.
The GPS operated game requires players to walk around and ‘capture’ various different Pokémon. Wei Peng, PhD, professor at Michigan State University who studies video games, thinks the game can be effective in getting people who live sedentary lives to be more active. “There is already clear evidence that people are walking more each day while using it,” she said.
“The game could be a gateway to other forms of exercise for sedentary people, once they start walking and realize how good they feel after being active,” said Debra Lieberman, PhD, director of the Center for Digital Games Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Video games that promote exercise are not new; the Nintendo Wii, which uses a controller to detect movement in three-dimensions, was launched in 2006. However, Pokémon Go adds the dimension of mobility and augmented reality; the ability to incorporate game aspects into real world images through a cell phone’s camera.
Dale Bond, an assistant professor of psychiatric and human behavior at Brown University, told the Huffington Post how Pokémon Go is different to previous exercise games in that players may not feel like they are exercising as there is no specific exercise goals established.
The app has been downloaded over 15 million times worldwide, which will likely grow as the app becomes available in more countries (it is currently available in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the U.K.). This popularity will likely inspire the advent of more augmented reality games.
Some worries do exist surrounding the safety of the game, as it can lure players into secluded areas where they can be robbed. Lieberman said, if people are being safe the game can bring “tremendous benefits”, such as “social interaction and physical activity.”
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