Pokemon is once again taking the world by storm, this time in the guise of Pokemon Go, a free-to-play mobile game that uses your phone’s GPS to create an augmented reality. For a change, health care experts are exuberant about the real life benefits from a digital game.
Pokemon Go may be a game you play on your smartphone, but it forces you to look beyond your screen.
As pointed out by PsychCentral’s John M. Grohol, many users are actually starting to get more physical, exploring their surroundings, and this has an unforeseen mental health benefit. The activity and interaction via the game helps relieve depression and anxiety, as is evident from posts and status updates on various social media accounts.
Here are a few tweets from players:
I know this sounds silly but #PokemonGo has helped me a lot with my social anxiety by encouraging me to go out more.
— •Shep (@StickySheepu) July 10, 2016
Real talk – as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal. #PokemonGo
— HiRez David (@uglycatlady) July 10, 2016
#PokemonGo has already been a better treatment for my depression than anything my doctor prescribed or therapist recommended
— Jesseanne Pope (@gleefullyhello) July 11, 2016
So, why does Pokemon Go help mental health patients? Pokemon Go may be a game you play on your smartphone, but it forces you to look beyond your screen. As users share their experiences on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that they are taking a keener interest in venturing out because of the augmented reality feature that layers your surroundings with cool-looking Pokemon.
As most people suffering from mental health disorders like depression and anxiety normally shy away from venturing out or meeting people, this app helps them overcome those reservations. The game also encourages you to walk around and be more active whilst playing, as Pokemon are to be found at various possible locations, such as around the street corner, at your building gate, in the park, and elsewhere. There are also predetermined locations on your map, where you can interact with and collect items that will help you progress in the game.
Having been released barely a week ago, researchers haven’t been able to analyze the effects of the app yet, but social media posts have made it obvious that Pokemon Go can offer relief from depression or anxiety. While you probably don’t need any of these incentives to play games, it does feel great knowing that one of your guilty pleasures is actually good for you.