Is Pokémon Go Good for Your Mental Health?

When Pokémon Go launched two weeks ago, it took the world seconds to become obsessed with the game. Based on the manga characters that spawned card games, movies and TV shows in the 90s, the new game allows phone users to catch monsters (known as Pokémon) in real time.

This means that wherever you live, you will find colourful creatures popping up on your phone screen, giving you the chance to add them to your inventory, train them up and battle against other users.

Video games have generally been frowned upon in the past, and are acknowledged as a factor in declining mental and physical health, but this could change with Pokémon Go. If someone you know is addicted to the game, here are the pros and cons of their new obsession.

  1. Physical activity

Unlike most video games, Pokémon Go requires players to get outside and move around. As a result, closet gamers are leaving the house and exercising. Walking, skateboarding or bike riding are all great options for covering more ground in an effort to ‘catch them all’.

Pokémon Go is a great compromise for people who struggle with exercise but love virtual reality. This in turn benefits their physical health and over all wellbeing. Just take a look at what people are saying on social media.

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That being said, it’s difficult to be aware of your surroundings when you’re playing, and people can (literally and figuratively) run into all sorts of trouble.

  1. Socialising

Gaming can be a solitary activity, but this app is prompting people head outside in groups to spend hours tracking down Pokémon. This makes it easy for people to make new friends, because players will congregate in the same areas.

James Gibson, who trialed the game for Niantic (the maker of Pokémon Go), even said socialising is built-in to the game.

“The individual gets a certain amount of enjoyment playing by themselves, but only really benefit by teaming up with others and playing in same area at same time…You’re forced into a social aspect to unlock the full richness of the game.”

There is a red flag to this socialisation—after all, people have their heads stuck behind their phones. But if this is balanced with conversation and general camaraderie, Pokémon Go could be a gateway to healthier community for lots of people.

  1. Relationships

Who knew a video game could bring people closer together? That’s right; couples are going out together and catching Pokémon. For couples who lack similar interests, this could be a great solution to spending quality time together

Naturally there are also negative consequences to this. Playing a video game is no substitute for real, meaningful conversation—especially if it is impeding on the time you spend together. If you and your partner like Pokémon Go, schedule time to play together after you’ve had dinner or done something that requires you to focus entirely on one another.

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Niantic via Facebook

  1. Creativity

As soon as you log into Pokémon Go, you create a character for yourself. This allows you to exercise your creativity and give yourself an identity. The bright colours, alternate reality and real-time of the game means that you are constantly stimulated and your creative juices are flowing.

There are limits to the creativity of Pokémon Go. If you’re dreaming of Pikachu’s or looking for Pidgies behind every tree, it’s gotten a little out of hand. Take a break and focus on natural beauty around you instead.

  1. Discipline

It may be a simple video game, but Pokémon Go pushes people to reach new levels and become a better ‘trainer’. Someone who has lacked discipline in the past could find the motivation to set goals with this game, and the rewards of meeting these goals are built in when you win a battle, upgrade a level or train a Pokémon.

The flip side of discipline is addiction, and it’s easy to become addicted to Pokémon Go. The urgency to continually look for Pokémon and make the next level means users can ignore appointments, enter dangerous situations, take risks and forget about real life. If this is happening to you, take a sabbatical from the game so you can focus on real life.

This was published by WatersedgeCounselling on July 15, 2016. Read it here.

About Jessica Morris

Jessica Morris is an internationally published journalist, writer and social media manager.

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