Pokèmon GO: the healthy side of gaming

Work experience student, Max Randall, 15, gives his view on why all the hype on Pokèmon GO may be more valid than it first appears. Could the game be the path to tackling childhood obesity?

 

Everyone is talking about Pokèmon GO.

With more than 15 million downloads in the first week of its release, the smart phone game has taken over the app store and Google play. All you have to do is walk to the park and you will see people staring at their phones and walking around frantically, racing to catch virtual creatures. This may seem stupid, but could Pokèmon GO be the key to keeping young people fit?

Immensely popular among children and adults across the world, the main appeal of the game is that as you move in the real world, you move in the game. The game even has its own reward system for walking long distances.

Pokèstops are the first stage of the reward system. Basically, they are landmarks in the real world, such as a park bench or a corner shop, that reward you with “loot” if you walk to them and tap on them on your phone screen. Loot can be used in the game to buy Pokèballs or “Potions” to heal your injured Pokèmon. Thus motivating a player to walk to Pokèstops to get their rewards.

Stage two of the reward system is Eggs; they can be found at Pokèstops and essentially reward you for walking a long distance. Three types of Eggs are available: 2KM, 5KM and 10KM. For the Egg to hatch, you must walk the distance stated. When the egg hatches you will be rewarded with a Pokèmon. However, the longer the distance the Egg states, the better Pokèmon you will be rewarded, again motivating people to walk further to get rarer or more desirable Pokèmon.

Nintendo and Niantic have cleverly programmed the game so it senses when you are going over a certain speed; this means you cannot drive around to speed up the process. Exercise is the only option.

One down side is you can use “incense” to lure Pokèmon to your location. If you use this, you won’t have to go and hunt for them outside, they will come to you. But the only way you can get incense is from a Pokèstop, which forces you to exercise. (You can buy incense with “Pokècoins”, which are rewarded from battles, or as an in-app purchase, meaning you have to buy them with real money, which is not a desirable option!)

Also, in the game you can unlock achievements, one of them for instance is to walk 100KM; again this rewards you for walking long distances, even if it is gradually.

In conclusion, I think Pokèmon GO is a great way to keep young people fit, and even some older people as the game has a nostalgic appeal to adults who were into the franchise as a kid. I think Nintendo have done a great job with the game – it has a competitive but friendly community. But by far the best thing about the game is that it manages to make exercise enjoyable.

The game tricks people into doing exercise; if exercise is fun you forget you’re even doing it. I seriously think this game has changed the world forever, both in the sense of gaming and exercise, but also in every day life. In the UK 25% of boys and 33% of girls aged 2 to 19 are obese. I believe Pokèmon GO is going to help reduce that number.


Published on: July 21, 2016