Pokémon Go has been a huge fad since it launched 2 months ago. It remains in the top 5 apps in both the apple and Google Play stores, and has continuously made headlines – for good and bad reasons. But what does psychology have to say have to say about this cultural phenomenon? Unfortunately we will not be able to know the long-term effects of Pokémon Go for a while longe. However, there has been some research on augmented reality in general.
Pokémon Go specifically, is an augmented reality game, meaning that unlike virtual reality where you are placed in an entirely new world, augmented reality is set in the real world and incorporates otherworldly elements into its game-play. Augmented reality is being used to help people with depression, phobias, social anxiety, PTSD, and even help alleviate pain and improve rehabilitation after strokes! One way it does this is by using positive rewards and clearly defined, incremental goals. This defined structure can be a real benefit to those with depression who might otherwise feel tired and unmotivated. The game also promotes physical exercise -as you have to walk around to catch Pokémon and hatch eggs- and it may also help relieve social anxiety. People who suffer from social anxiety often feel like they do not belong, or that they are going to be judged, but playing Pokémon which is so widespread and accepted may help those people feel more comfortable and give them something they have in common with other people. However, don’t be fooled by positives, there are also negative aspects! The article linked explores both the pros and the cons the game might have.
Pokémon Go may be helpful for some people, but it is not a replacement for getting professional help. If you are interested in bettering your mental health, or need help with managing your depression or social anxiety, I offer free 20-minute consultations. I would love to meet with you and discuss the ways in which you can develop skills to boost your mental health in a meaningful, long-term way… beyond, of course, playing Pokémon Go! Also, feel free to share in the comments about your experience with Pokémon Go.