“No, you need more candy to level up!”
“I’m a Level 5. What level are you at?”
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard something about the interactive augmented virtual reality game – Pokémon GO -that is getting everyone off the couch and walking into poles in the local shopping center. For those of you that are not quite as up-to-date on the gamer world, to play Pokémon GO you download the app to your mobile device and use its GPS and camera to find Pokémon characters that are shown on the screen as you walk around town.
In spite of all the negativity we’ve heard about video games – making us antisocial, hurting our eyes, inciting us towards violence – new studies show that this type of gaming can actually help people struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. What we’re learning:
- Playing games can motivate us to move. By playing Pokémon GO, people are up and moving – walking everywhere from college campuses and Central Parks to National Parks and unpaved trails. And we know that physical activity is an important part of emotional health and treatment for anxiety and depression.
- Gaming social groups can help us avoid isolation. For some people, getting out of the house isn’t easy. Many games offer interaction with others – with no geographical limitations – allowing players to get to know one another. Many people have credited Pokémon GO with giving them a reason to get out of the house – perhaps for the first time in days!
- Simple games can be helpful also. Pokémon GO not your thing? No worries! You don’t need to conquer a virtual world. Even online versions of board games like Scrabble and Yahtzee offer the same benefits.
So being a little bit of a geek, I was curious about Pokémon GO and decided to give it a try. I downloaded the app, created my avatar and set off for a walk around my neighborhood. There on the park bench was Drowzee and, bam – I threw a ball (virtually, of course) and caught him. Whoo hoo! I admit I was a bit self-conscious at first but after a little while, the fun overcame me and before you know it, I had walked 8,000 steps – and even met a few of my neighbors. I felt happy and energized when I got back home. In fact, I’m going to call a few friends and encourage them to give it a try. Maybe we can arrange a Pokémon GO play date!