Can Pokémon Go create social change?

Last week, the trailblazing new video game Pokémon Go was released in the U.S. and immediately, it spread like wildfire. According to Survey Monkey, the game had about 21 million daily active users as of July 11th. The game augments reality by accessing a smartphone’s camera and superimposing a 3-D Pokémon onto the screen. It’s not only remarkable for it’s innovative use of technology but also for its concept. In order for the user to catch any of the virtual Pokémon, they must explore outside of their real-world homes. This way, folks are not only playing the latest video game they are also getting exercise. Folks who might not otherwise spend time outside are leaving their homes and getting, on average, 28 minutes of exercise.

Okay, so Pokémon Go is a clever game that encourages more people to get outside and get moving. In and of itself, this is a remarkable feat for an app. But other benefits of Pokémon Go are being reported. According to an article on The Mary Sue, many users are reporting that spending time playing the game is boosting their mental health. Spending time outside is linked to alleviated symptoms of depression and anxiety and may help explain this boost users are experiencing. Not only that, users are also reporting that the game has led them to socialize with people in their neighborhoods.

As I rode my bike on the Springwater Corridor in SE Portland last weekend, I noticed that it was a bit more crowded than usual. I even came across several groups of people walking together trying to catch water and grass Pokémon. Pokémon Go has encouraged more exercise and time outdoors, boosted people’s mental health, and helped build community in neighborhoods. All this, if (and that’s a big if) sustained, can have lasting social impact.  As an aspiring media-maker, the ability for a simple and fun game to affect so much is inspiring, even if I’m not a huge Pokémon buff.

Signing off for now,

Frankie