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Health and Educational Benefits of Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go Craze Enhances Social Interaction

Who would have thought it? A game played on electronic devices can be good for your overall psyche and mental health. It gets the home-bound youngsters dependent on their smart phones and tablets for entertainment and engagement out of the house and into a more desirable social environment. These cute characters are visually appealing and challenges one's imagination.

Twitter is flooded with stories about Pokemon Go’s impact on players’ anxiety and depression, with thousands of people singing its praises for getting them off their butts and making it easier to meet friends and strangers alike. The research shows that the more you exercise, the more it could help feelings of depression. Even walking while playing the game has its benefits. Ultimately, the features that come together in the game appeal to real human desires to connect.

But, beware of oncoming traffic. From driving accidents to distracted pedestrians and dangerous trespassing, the amazing success of Pokemon Go is fueling public safety issues. There are stories of players falling off ocean bluffs and falling into ditches, and exiting cars to catch a Pokemon can cause accidents.

Pokemon Go can get out of hand because of the frenzied involvement of crowds of people that can overwhelm otherwise quiet communities. Just look at what happened in Taiwan recently.Thousands of Pokemon Go players looking like a mob, pushing through an intersection, appearing like a marathon group of runners stopped traffic and created a public menace.

Pokemon Go is the mobile game that augments reality. The game uses the player’s phone’s GPS, camera, and clock to generate a brightly-colored, fantastical version of the real world on the phone or tablet. Certain Pokemon tend to be found in their natural habitats; if you are walking on a beach you may find one type of Pokemon while at a train station, another kind. Players have found Pokemon just about everywhere so the alternatives are endless.

What about educational benefits? It seems teachers are giving it a try. Why? The Pokemon Go game uses geolocation to place virtual Pokemon characters in the real world. Students gain a better appreciation for their surroundings. It stokes their creative juices. When students find a Pokemon in the wild, they can turn on an augmented reality version of their mobile device screen which puts the virtual Pokemon into the live screen where their camera is facing. Students can take a screenshot of the image. By saving the screenshots, students will have access to them later to use in other classroom projects, such as creating a digital story about their adventures.

I’m all for developing new ideas to reach out to students and engaging them in the learning process. Pokemon Go has great potential in this regard, especially in K-12. Still, there needs to be a controlled environment to avoid unwanted experiences and accidents that the game can cause. That said, I find the new craze to be quite stimulating and anything that gets kids out of their comfort zone challenges their analytical abilities and enhances social interaction. The societal benefits are many including a healthier outlook on life.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 6, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at:

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