Pokémon GO , a new app that launched less than a week ago, is taking the world by storm with 7.5 million downloads in the United States alone. People from all walks of life are enjoying this virtual hunt, from elementary school kids—although not mine at the moment—to working professionals.
The game uses Google Maps and your phone’s camera to transform your surroundings into an actual game. To play, users must find and catch Pokémon hidden in the real world, which can only be seen while looking through the Pokémon GO app.
Sounds like it could be fun, but there are risks to playing. The opening screen cautions you to pay attention to your surroundings. Mindful, yes. However, players can become so immersed in the game they can trip, walk into doors or signs, and injure themselves in all sorts of ways.
Since the app’s launch, some interesting stories have surfaced, like finding a dead body while looking for Pokémon in the water—glad this wasn’t me. Pokémon GO was also reportedly used to facilitate robberies—not so good. Needless to say, it’s easy to get into trouble while your eyes are glued to your phone—isn’t this what we tell our kids not to do?
While technology has disconnected many people from the physical world, this augmented reality game has some interesting benefits and ways of bringing people closer together:
1. It gets people out of the house.
In today’s culture, screen time often outweighs physical activity time, but Pokémon GO is changing the game. As an app that requires all kinds of moving around, players are having fun without even realizing the physical health benefits. Users are required to walk around to do everything from check in at locations, catch Pokémon and hatch eggs.
2. It builds community and brings people together.
I live in New York City, which is—needless to say—not the most friendly city in the world. But, it’s hard to walk around outside and not see someone playing the game or hear people talking about it with each other. Chances are, you’ll run into someone trying to catch the same Pokémon or battling at the same gym. Strangers will often help each other and give clues where they had luck finding different types of Pokémon.
3. It’s educational.
The game will take you on a virtual adventure to places you’ve never been. Pokéstops include many historical landmarks, some of which may be hidden in your own neighborhood.
4. It helps people with anxiety and depression.
Users who suffer from mental illness have said that the game has motivated them to get out of bed and leave their homes. Even people who are introverted are saying this game is inspiring them to go outside and socialize.
5. It brings families closer together
While PokémonPokemon is definitely Millennial-centric, the game is easy enough for the entire family to play. Even better, they can play it together.
With all of the sadness and tragedy in the world lately, this app seems to create a variety of health benefits by bringing people together. That being said, if you decide to play, take caution to the risks involved. Stay safe and have fun!