Pokémon Go: an accidental health fad

July 2016
Pokémon Go: an accidental health fad
Wala Salameh
14th July 2016

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, the widely anticipated augmented reality game Pokémon Go was released – and it’s taken the world by storm.

In fact, the UK release date has even been paused after an unexpectedly high volume of downloads across the world caused it to crash.

Pokemon Go

Users track and capture digital Pokémon in the real world.

Before we write it off as a game suitable only for overzealous teens, it’s proven to be a hit with a wide fanbase.

And here’s why Pokémon Go is more than just a game; there are some significant mental and physical health benefits to gain from playing.

Pokémon Go encourages you to walk around – a lot. Moving away from the often robotic step-counting so many of us do on a daily basis, progression in the game is impossible to achieve without walking around. If you want to play and get far, you’re going to have to walk, and then some.

Gaming is often criticised for encouraging reclusiveness and making people more antisocial, but Pokémon Go has proven to be a surprising tool for bringing people together. Many users have come together, exchanging tips and enthusiasm for catching the latest creatures – transcending age and gender stereotypes often attached to the image of a typical ‘gamer’.

With spending more time outside the house, you can discover what’s around you while also enjoying the benefits that a more-active lifestyle brings.

Framing physical activity as a fun pursuit is a difficult task, which is what makes Pokémon Go interesting to us from a behaviour change perspective.

We recently launched Move It Boom Rio, an interactive game created in consultation with real kids in Leicestershire.

Move it Boom Rio's fiesty feline ChopChop

Move it Boom Rio’s fiesty feline ChopChop

Move It Boom Rio requires children to log real-life physical activity in order to progress and ultimately defeat the villainous robot Count Gusto – our anthropomorphism of an inactive lifestyle. The game has been a great success, with over 25,000 activities logged by users in the first two weeks.

While Pokémon Go does not have the express aim of increasing physical activity, there’s no doubt that it’s a welcome byproduct.

It will now be interesting to see what else the industry comes up with in a bid to emulate this success, and how this can help inform even more immersive and engaging behaviour change campaigns.

By Wala Salameh