Pokémon GO: Catch Some Self Improvement

pokemon go mewtwo pikachu

Pokémon GO has lit the Internet on fire. In a news week with the FBI declining to recommend indictment for Hilary Clinton and horrific police shootings, a video game involving searching for fictional monsters on cell phones still manages to be a dominant topic. Nintendo’s stock jumped 10% after release. Thousands of statuses and tweets about the game flood the social networks. Incredible stories are already popping up, like a player that found a dead body while playing. Pokémon GO meetups worldwide are in the making. In a year or so, I bet we’ll hear about marriages that began with meeting through hunting Pokémon.

Never before have so many gamers been so excited to go outside.

If you’ve read a few posts here, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of the franchise. Naturally, I was stoked to get in on this game. When downloads opened up in Japan and Australia, I downloaded the APK file to avoid the day wait until it went live in the USA. I’ve sunk many hours into it already, formed alliances (#TeamValor baby!), and drained my phone battery to death several days in a row. I love this game even despite the launch’s heavy on genwunner pandering.

pokemon go genwunner
Problem, genwunners?

Plus, Pokémon GO clickbait is hot right now. Since this is a motivation blog, let’s talk about ways the game can push you to some legendary self improvement.

Carbos boosted speed!

First, let’s talk about the obvious benefit: physical fitness. So long as one isn’t wandering into dangerous places, there are nothing but benefits to getting out and walking some more. I’ve watched numerous statuses go across my Facebook about friends getting out and walking more than they had in years. Hours fly by searching for Pokémon or wiping Mystic and Instinct scum off of your turf.

If you’re lucky, an item drop or gym may be close to your house/apartment, but you’ll more than likely have to get out and search for them. Plus, the game also incorporates Pokémon eggs, which are only hatched by walking a certain distance (two to ten kilometers). Don’t get fresh and think you can drive a car, because the game detects movement too fast to be walking. Simply put, this is not a game where you can sit at home and expect the Pokémon and items to come to you.

pokemon go tauros
Though I did encounter this Tauros right in my front yard.

For reference, an hour of walking burns 391 calories. Doing one good session of exploring and battling each day adds up to 2737 extra calories burnt per week. Even more calories are added to that total when one must walk up hills and inclines. Pair that with some regular exercise, and you’re burning enough calories to lose at least 1-2 pounds per week (3500 calories needed to burn a pound of fat). Play the game long enough and you’ll be fit as a Fighting type.

I will travel across the land

With all of that walking and searching, you’re bound to visit some new places. Using location data from Niantic’s previous GPS-based hit Ingress, item drops and Pokémon gyms are spawned at places of interests. These range from parks, monuments, public artwork, and an alarming number of churches. Despite living in my town for years, I found some cool places I had never heard of before. Interesting places you were never aware of can be just around the corner, and replenishing your Pokéball stock can be the map to get you there.

Plus, many item drops and gyms spawned at businesses. Corporate chain stores and restaurants tend to be dry on PokéStops, but they appear at local establishments a’plenty. You may arrive at the place to turn a Blue gym into a Red one, but you can discover cool new niche stores, coffee shops, and restaurants along the way. Supporting your local businesses is always a positive thing. Pokémon GO may end up being one of the best things to happen to locally-owned establishments in years. Forbes even published an article for business owners to best utilize this mobile craze.

pokemon go coffee shop
“Yeah I just came here to get some Pokéballs but that iced extra strength gingerbread Guinness chai latte sounded too good to pass up.”

Catching a Team

If you were out and about this first weekend of Pokémon GO‘s launch, you probably noticed a lot of other people walking around town, heads buried in their phones, occasionally swiping madly and cursing at a fleeing Vulpix. Hell, just set a lure module at the nearest PokéStop and the other players will come to you. Assuming one doesn’t live in a small town with few other Pokémon fans (such hellish places), you’ll be surprised just how many other players there are out there.

A friend and I discovered the extent of this firsthand. We live in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Saturday night, we decided to roll downtown to take advantage of more PokéStops in cities and hopefully find something other than the grass and bug types our neighborhood spawns. We spotted several active lure modules on the map, and lo and behold, over one hundred people had gathered in a small city block park. All were there for the same reason: Pokémon GO. Team trash talk was swapped, people screamed when rare Pokémon appeared, memories of the franchise were swapped, new friendships were made. This was just in one small city block, and is occurring in cities all over the world in the same way.

pokemon go spider-man spiderman
And I was dressed as Spider-Man. No real reason.

It’s been less than a week since launch, and Pokémon GO is already fostering hundreds, if not thousands of new connections between people. Facebook groups are assembling to connect and coordinate. Complete strangers find instant connection when they see others walking with their gaze glued to the phone screen. Relationships formed over something as seemingly silly as a video game have real staying power, and can connect you to people you never imagined meeting. This could lead to new friendships, relationships, an expanded career network; or just a cool crew of people to share a hobby you love with.

Alakazam used Calm Mind!

As regular readers know, mental health is a recurring theme here. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprising), Pokémon GO generates some anecdotal mental health benefits. I say anecdotal because four days is nowhere near enough time to produce an observed and vetted correlation, but even placebo can be the boost we need sometimes. Numerous Tumblr and Twitter users have praised the game for giving them motivation and purpose amidst battles with depression. Players who struggled to find reason to get out of bed are now drawn to leave the house and meet new people along the way.

There are several aspects of Pokémon GO that do have confirmed mental health benefits. The walking done for Pokémon hunts (and physical activity in general) generates stress-reducing endorphins. If the quest takes you into a walk through the woods, that’s even better. A Stanford University study observed nature walks stimulate creative thinking, attentive capacity, and stress reduction. Another study by the University of Michigan found nature walks to be very therapeutic for depression relief and overcoming grief or traumatic life events.

pokemon go natures bulbapedia
Not to be confused with the headache that is Pokémon natures.

You can Pokémon GO your own way

The massive mobile masterstroke that is Pokémon GO is just beginning. Five (soon to be six!) more generations of Pokémon have yet to be added. Serious players are just beginning to scratch the surface of the strange mechanics powering the adventure. If you’re going to sink the hours upon hours into the game (chances are if you’re reading this post you already have), then make the best of the game time. Level up yourself while you level up your monsters. Become your very best, like no one ever was.

pokemon go servers down
That is if you aren’t being locked out by server farts.

Coffee shop image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.
Pokémon Nature chart property of Bulbapedia.

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