Pokémon Go was released last week in the United States, and it’s making waves, but not for the reason you might think (like the surge in missed connections on Craigslist and the discovery of a dead body). Pokémon Go is helping people improve their mental health by having players engage with the world around them.
Over the past week, social media has exploded with positive feedback about Pokémon Go. Where other Pokémon games isolated players indoors, Go lets players capture Pokémon in the real world. People with crippling anxiety and major depression are socializing and voluntarily leaving their houses to catch ’em all.
Pokemon Go might just be the best thing for improving my mental health and positive body image. Yesterday I walked 8.5 miles for Pokemon.
— Adam Armstrong (@TechyHumor) July 10, 2016
Pokemon Go is literally making people with depression and anxiety and agoraphobia leave the house and explore the world and socialise.
— jason? (@jasonjarmoosh) July 8, 2016
Research has long shown that going outside and walking around improves mental health. It’s one thing to tell people, “Hey, go walk, because it’ll make you feel better,” and another for people to be self-motivated to leave their homes and experience the world around them. For those with anxiety and depression, leaving the safety of their home can be a daunting task. Pokémon Go gives them the tools and the courage to go out into the world.
Not only does Pokémon Go help players go outside and experience nature, it offers people a chance to meet new friends around Pokéstops and Gyms. Other multiplayer games have a chance to create lasting bonds – I’ve met some of my closest friends through video game interaction – but until you have the chance to meet someone face-to-face, you’re isolated behind a computer screen. Players are making interpersonal connections outside their homes, and that is perhaps the best thing a game can offer.
If you feel your mental health is improving by playing Pokémon Go, check out this survey by the Checkpoint organization in Australia, a “non-profit organization providing consultancy, advocacy, and resources for mental health and video game industries.”