In case you somehow missed it, Pokémon Go is a mobile game that uses your phone’s camera to let you find Pokémon out in the real world and catch them. If you’ve been on social media at all since it came out, you’ve probably seen pictures of the little cartoon creatures sitting on people’s dogs or other silly places. Some people are sick and tired of hearing about the game already, but then some people just hate everything.
But if you thought the game was just silly nonsense, time to think again. In the game’s first week of actual availability, many people have been reporting some very positive side effects of playing. Namely, they’re going outside to catch ‘em all, which is resulting in people exercising and even talking to strangers, both of which are notoriously hard for people with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
A number of studies have shown that going outside, and especially spending time near trees, rivers, and other natural things, is good for one’s mental health. But for people with anxiety or depression, leaving the house can be hard, especially if you’re not keen on interacting with strangers, or even people you know. Exercise is also good for mental health, but it has the same problem.
With this in mind, lots of apps have been developed to try and get people outside and moving around, for both their physical and mental health, but most of those apps have poor retention rates since people lose interest or the developers’ attempts to make the app “fun” fall flat. Pokémon Go wasn’t developed with this in mind, but was developed simply as a game that was supposed to be fun. The result is that it has effectively tricked people into getting at least slightly healthier. Good job, Nintendo!