‘Pokémon Go’ is good for us

By Sean Kranske, Contributing Writer

Americans have been concerned with health and obesity caused by inactivity for the past few decades, spawning many ad-campaigns and programs encouraging people to leave their house and get active. A large portion of the blame is placed on technology, with video games and electronics keeping people indoors and inactive.

What Nintendo has done with Pokémon Go is effectively tweak the technology we love to get us outside and socializing more.

Pokémon Go is labeled as an ‘augmented reality’ game, which is a sort of virtual reality that only aims to tweak real life rather than create a whole new world. This gives the player a sense that they are exploring, rather than exercising.

This has been attempted before by apps like Zombies, Run, but the difference is that Pokémon Go doesn’t market itself as a fitness app. This adds to the illusion created by the game; players aren’t really going out to exercise, they’re going out to catch Pokémon. The workout you get from Pokémon might not be as rigorous as a full-blown workout regimen, but it still has a lot of people moving who would have otherwise stayed home.

Nintendo has not only encouraged physical activity, it actually causes people to socialize with each other. Increasing socialization has always been a goal of the Pokémon series, with the ability to trade and battle Pokémon with real people being a selling point since the mid-90s. The technology, like requiring awkward cables and brick-sized handheld gaming consoles, has held Nintendo back from achieving this goal up until now.

In Pokémon Go, gyms are located in the real world, often around a certain landmark throughout a city or neighborhood. When players walk to the Pokémon Gym to take it for their team, chances are they’ll bump into another player doing the same. It’s not too uncommon for these people to engage in conversation, often using Pokémon Go itself as the icebreaker.

Concerns have been raised about the dangers of Pokémon Go. Some people have already been in Pokémon-related accidents, usually due to using the app while driving or staring at the map on their phone rather than what’s in front of them. These situations can be dangerous, but many of the accidents people were involved in came from some individual’s carelessness rather than the app itself.

Pokémon Go has safety measures in place to avoid these kinds of accidents. The app causes your phone to vibrate when a Pokémon is near so the player doesn’t need to keep a constant watch, and a Pokémon can be caught a short distance so that the player doesn’t have to walk into the street.

Trends come and go, but Pokémon Go stands out because of the good it is doing for us. It’s too early to tell whether the game is just a fad, or if it’s here to stay for a long while. Either way, Pokémon Go has had a positive physical and social effect on people for the past couple of weeks.