Pokemon Go is breaking all sorts of records since it's release putting creators Nintendo back on the financial map again but it's not the money this clever app is making that interests me it's the potential health benefits.
I played tennis fixtures last night and my (much younger) opponent Adam happened to be a Pokemon child growing up in the 90's playing Pokemon games on pocket Nintendo machines.
As we warmed up hitting the ball back and forth he excitedly asked if I had "gotten into" the Pokemon Go craze before looking downward and wryly stating "oh yeah, you would have probably missed that era" – which was true… Sadly or not and being closer to 50 I had a giggle but did inform him that I was aware of this new craze and he mocked me again by raising his eyebrows really high! I then admitted not knowing a whole lot about this new app except for hearing you needed to be out and about to actually play the game.
Adam, the bouncy youthful tennis opponent, confirmed my statement with a "yes" and a nice forehand several metres out of my reach (thankfully we were still only hitting up) however, his raving review of the Pokemon Go mobile app that followed really inspired me to check out the latest "fitness craze" for myself.
On his way to the tennis centre Adam explained how he stopped off at a nearby public parklands called Centenary Lakes (as shown in the cover image) and he along with an estimated 50 other people were actively walking/jogging around the parklands with their mobile phones held out in front of faces "hunting" Pokemons on the Pokemon Go app.
Well imagine that! FIFTY people dragged off their backsides for a stroll in the park by a mobile phone app! Incredible!
Could Pokemon Go be the holy grail of motivational exercise for the masses? I think it definitely has potential – and I really do hope so…
Motivated people will always exercise so the Pokemon Go app really isn't aimed at them (me included) we'll still be using our fitness apps synchronised to fitness watches etc. But, the trick for getting the rest of an ever fattening society off the couch and out exercising is to somehow make it seem like they are NOT exercising. Early reports seem to indicate it's working!
Was Pokemon Go really created as a way to promote fitness though? Or, are the healthy aspects of playing the game a pleasant side affect of an app that was initially aimed primarily at being the next new thing? Well, according to John Hanke the CEO behind Pokemon Go his team guideline was to create the game around activity with one of the main points being exercise and another one being awareness or encouraging people to get out in the local communities to experience the notable landmarks around them.
I guess we should take their word that Pokemon Go was developed with exercise and community awareness in mind. Although, something deep down tells me the real indicators are the user experience and hooks leading to the main aim of getting more people to play the game.
Nevertheless, and according to Adam, his verbal review to me (as we battled on the tennis court) couldn't have been more glowing. The main thing Adam emphasised about why he enjoyed playing Pokemon Go was the exercise and "getting out" to search for those characters.
At the change of ends, I asked Adam if there were any Pokemon characters around our tennis centre or perhaps on the actual court. We both peered at his phone as he opened the app but alas there were none in our immediate vicinity, however, there were a few Pokemons lurking several hundred metres away at the local park. You have to be practically within metres to catch a Pokemon and there was no way I'd sacrifice a game of tennis to hunt a fictional character on my opponents mobile phone – as tempting as it was…
In conclusion, I could honestly see how genuinely excited Adam was at experiencing Pokemon Go. He seemed to love all aspects of the game from the app UI, graphics, interaction, concept, goals, and since it was a resurrection from his childhood bringing back fond memories of Pokemon battles it made his experience even more sweeter.
The Pokemon Go team have plans to grow or evolve the app over time increasing the interaction and introducing new features – probably some at a cost to the user. Still, if that means for a few bucks Pokemon Go gets otherwise inactive people off their bums and out working up a sweat chasing Pokemons around the world then I think it's money well spent.
For me, I doubt I will ever become an engrossed Pokemon Go player because gaming just doesn't interest me even if it's combined with exercise. Admittedly though, if there was a mobile game that could tempt me to play it regularly it probably would be Pokemon Go or something similar. Perhaps it's just the beginning of the "active exercise gaming period" of our time.
I lost the set 6-2.
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