It would appear that alongside all the physical benefits of the app, Pokémon Go is seemingly benefitting the mental health of thousands of its users. Psychologist and researcher Dr. John Groho suggests that the exercise and exposure to the outdoors that the game encourages is helping people suffering from anxiety and depression across the world – and it makes sense! Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exposure to nature a week can reduce your chance of depression and heart disease by 9%, which is a perfect match for Pokémon Go’s feature of finding rare Pokémon by trees and water (this may explain all the news headlines about players falling into rivers).
If the approval of one academic wasn’t enough, Professor Daniel Freeman of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University believes that the nature of augmented reality “refocus[es] your attention away from threat by getting you immersed in engaging activity, or it could be used to present the things you fear for long enough to help your anxiety naturally decline. Combine the right psychological science and augmented reality and you’ll have a really powerful treatment tool.” It’s without question that clinical tests are required to develop these theories into fact, but the potential for greatness that apps such as Pokémon Go can provide is unquestionable.
Alongside the benefits of being exposed to the outdoors, the nature of the game requires players to be in each other’s company. There are no trolls behind a keyboard, or unregulated forums encouraging antisocial behaviour. From this, some have gone as far to say how the app has the possibility to reduce cyber bullying, and has encouraged a more ‘female accepting’ gaming environment.
Although these claims will remain claims for the time being, this type of game is like nothing we have ever experienced on such a huge and accessible scale. As a player myself, I think the game is fantastic. It has generated a bizarre sense of community amongst players, and seems to have bridged a gap in the gaming world. Everyone is welcome, old, young, male or female.
Aside from the game itself, augmented reality is an area of technology that is still full of unexplored opportunity. For the general public, Pokémon Go is arguably the first app to introduce augmented reality (AW) into our daily routines. Since its release, folks in the UK have let their imaginations run wild for the future of AW.
Before Pokémon Go was even in its earliest stages, the developer Tokar brought out an augmented reality ‘wizarding’ app. The app transports its users into a magical wizarding world, featuring spells, potions, duels, and all sorts of mystical creatures. Harry Potter I hear you cry? Unfortunately not, and much to the dismay of Tokar, ‘Maguss’ is a game not at all affiliated with the Harry Potter brand. The Warner Brothers even had to send a polite reminder to the brand when it seemed even they were forgetting that MagussWand was not, as they put in one of their OWN tweets, #HarryPotterGo. After a small slap on the wrist, MagussWand released this statement early August, and now feature a permanent ‘We are not Harry Potter’ disclaimer on their website.
Not only that, but the game is now having to answer allegations of ripping off the app Pokemon Go on their FAQ section!
Though Pokémon Go wasn’t the first of its kind to use augmented reality, it is certainly the first that received such a successful reception. In 2013 Volkswagen created an iPad app that projected labels and instructions to help mechanic operators to fix cars in real time (Who knew?!). In the same year, Google brought us Google Glass, at an unforgiving price of $1,500. Unfortunately for Google, the glasses fell short and didn’t amount to people’s expectations of something a little more ‘James Bond’.
Looking ahead to the future, In October 2016, Sony have plans to release their very own virtual reality product – PlayStation VR. The Playstation VR has been a project Sony have been working on long before you and I had even heard of Pokémon Go. The VR headset is already set to be the new and improved Oculus Rift, with a sleeker design and competitive price.
All in all, gaming is heading in a completely different direction, and it seems developers are constantly pushing the boundaries with new technology. The lines between game and reality are becoming increasingly blurred, which is quite a scary thought. Thinking of scary, ‘Night Terrors’ is the new augmented reality horror app set to be released this year, which can only be described as a real life nightmare, all from the screen of your iPhone. The app maps out a players home, sends scary text messages and even measures the heart rate of the user to ensure maximum jump scares. Yikes!!
The future of gaming and augmented reality is a topic open for endless discussion, so we’ll save that for another blog post. However, whatever your opinion on Pokémon Go, the app has opened up a whole other virtual world for the general public with a nostalgic, crazy, and infectious game. Good job Niantic. We salute you!
Created by Megan Gee, Victoria Edmonds, Hannah Cholerton