What exactly is it?
Ok, so first things first. Surely many of our readers are seeing the headlines but might not have a full grasp of what exactly this game is or what the interface is like. Pokémon Go or “PG” for short, is a free downloadable app for iOS and Android devices. The gameplay works by using your phone’s GPS for your physical location and then uses “augmented reality” to take you through a virtual world searching for pokémon. As you travel around by foot, skateboard, bike, etc..little pokémon creatures pop up on your phone screen and actually integrate into the image of your physical surroundings!
You can then capture the pokemon by swiping your finger and “tossing” a pokéball. The goal of the game is to “catch em all” as the famous tagline suggests, but a more thorough explanation on what to do once you catch them can be found here.
Why is this game so popular?
Although it sounds counter-intuitive that a video game could be a social tool, that’s the reality with PG. Gaming on this platform is bringing people together in ways that Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter have failed to do…in person! As said above, the game requires you to travel around to “catch ‘em all.” With so many people participating (PG surpassed twitter in daily active users in just 3 short weeks), the likelihood of running into individuals pursuing the same goal is quite high! I know, I know, people are still on their phones during this game; but it’s a step in the right direction! People are out of their houses, they’re talking to each other, and they’re finding common ground. My neighborhood actually looks alive for once! I haven’t seen this since I met my friend Pat out on the playground during recess in 1995, haha!
What does this have to do with fitness?
Now, let’s get to the big question…How can we use this tool to help reach our health and fitness goals? Well, as a practitioner, I view this game not only as an awesome gateway to my cherished childhood, but also as a tool to help elicit habit change. Many people that previously couldn’t find time to go out for that 30 minute walk on days between their exercise classes are now out and about almost everyday in hot pursuit of the next pokémon. Psychologists have stated that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. With this game being at that 3 week mark since its rollout, the habit is being made. Once the media attention and “fad effect” of this game begins to die down, some of the time that has been carved out of schedules to get up and move will not. The excuses will continue to dwindle down, and who knows, maybe that extra day of walking will blossom into something more!
Now… go to the app store, download Pokémon GO, and start catchin’…I mean changing your lifestyle! Just don’t let me catch you chasing pikachus in my classes 😉