Even though I’m currently in the middle of my month-long social media vacation (which has been awesome by the way - keep an eye out for a blog post next month!), I’ve still managed to hear about this crazy phenomenon called Pokemon Go. Just in case this doesn’t ring a bell for you, it’s a game where you go around collecting cute little creatures called Pokemon. There are lots of different types with various properties, and you can tend to them till they get stronger, then have them do battle with other Pokemon. The twist is that, with the help of smartphone technology, you actually have to go outside and walk around to play the game!
At first I was skeptical, but with millions (!!!) of people already playing the game just a couple of weeks after it’s release, I figured I had to at least check out this thing that is getting people outside and moving around. And I’m actually pretty impressed for several different reasons.
Get outside & walk
The most obvious benefit is that people are getting outside and walking more. How awesome is that? In addition to having to walk to find Pokemon, one cool game mechanic is incubating Pokemon eggs. Eggs require a certain amount of walking in order to hatch, and this has proven to be really good motivation to extend my walks. For example, I’m currently incubating an egg that requires 10 kilometers of walking, and I have to admit, I’ve definitely been tempted to keep walking in order to get it to hatch!
Also, at first I thought that Pokemon Go would - like traditional computer games - require non-stop staring at a screen. (Not so good for the eyes!) However, if you set your phone to vibrate, it will do so when a Pokemon appears. This means that for much of your walk you can gaze into the distance and give your eyes a much needed break from up-close work.
Change YOUR ROUTINE
Another feature of the game are “Poke stops”, which give you prizes when you get close to them. They’re visible on the game map at a long distance, so it’s possible to plan your route around them.
Poke stops have been excellent incentive to walk a few blocks out of my way and take new routes, which has several benefits. According to biomechanist Katy Bowman, “walking in a familiar place automatically changes your level of alertness - not just with your eyes and ears, but with respect to how you’re moving. Familiarity breeds comfort and comfort breeds, well, mindlessness.” And walking mindlessly leads to a lot less nutritious movement!
(Here's the whole blog post on how to make your walks more nutritious.)
CREATe A TRIBE
Pokemon Go is also a potentially great way to find a real-life tribe of people with similar interests. While our glowing screens provide lots of benefits, humans evolved as socials animals, and we need to be around other people in order to thrive. I can’t say if there are lots of players that do end up interacting in real life. However, in just a couple of days of playing the game, I've had several impromptu conversations with Pokemon-playing strangers that would not have happened otherwise!
Play like a kid
Before you rush off to download Pokemon Go and head out for a Poke walk, check out this amusing video of a mob of hundreds of people rushing to capture a Pokemon that appeared in Bellevue, Washington. How often do you see a large group of adults having fun and running with abandon in a public park? Maybe part of the appeal of this game is that it gives us permission to act like kids again.