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Gaming Psychology: Is Pokémon Go Good Or Bad?

by Leanne Hall
Posted: September 06, 2016

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With nearly 15 million downloads in just a week after the app was released in the US, Pokémon Go looks set to be the biggest thing ever in online gaming, writes Clinical Psychologist and Integrative Health Expert, Leanne Hall.

And if running around chasing weird, cute little creatures isn’t your thing, surely you have witnessed eager Pokémon Trainers in action? 

You may even have noticed bunches of people congregating around certain landmarks all glued to their phones. This my friends, is called a Pokestop. Now a Pokestop gives you free items, such as pokeballs and even Pokémon eggs! Yes that’s right, you can even hatch your own little creatures!

So what is all the fuss about?

Huge crowd of Pokemon Go trainers trying to catch Rainer and Pikachu

Well the first thing that grabs you about this game (aside from the fact that it’s FREE) is that it combines real life and fiction in quite a clever way. This is called augmented reality, and it’s actually a real thing! 

In fact, it’s a technique that is used to treat a number of health conditions such as arachnophobia (spider phobia). Pokémon Go harnesses this augmented reality by giving people the incentive to go outside and move. Unfortunately, there have also been some negative consequences. So is Pokémon Go good or bad?

Let’s look at some of the positive aspects of Pokémon Go

Playing Pokemon Go on the street and spotted a wild Drowzee, is Pokémon Go good?

1.    It encourages people to get outside and walk

This is where it has a massive advantage over other online games requiring you to sit in front of a computer screen. Not only that, but it also encourages social interaction, which is another huge advantage. This can be helpful for people who experience social anxiety.

2.    It provides structure, with clear goals and rewards

This provides a sense of achievement, which as we know can help to boost self-esteem.

3.    It keeps gamers in reality

As opposed to other online games, which take them into a completely different world where they can “escape” reality all together. 

4.    The subject matter is innocent, and it’s transgenerational

Transgenerational means it resonates with both adults (Pokémon has been around since the early 1990’s) and children. As such, it provides a cool platform for adults to interact with their kids. 

However, before you head off Pokémon hunting... 

There are no Pokemon hiding in the herbs

There are a few not so good aspects to playing this game, which need to be mentioned.

1.    You are STILL ON YOUR PHONE! 

As much as it encourages some kind of social interaction (and some is better than none), for those who are particularly socially anxious, this may provide a useful stepping-stone.

However, for everyone else – it’s certainly not ideal, unless you supplement with non-phone based social interaction!

2.    It’s distracting 

There have been a number of accidents reported caused by people on their phones searching for Pokémons, such as car accidents. As such, prolonged use of the game can certainly increase the risk of injury.

3.    It can be stressful! 

Particularly if you are competitive. This is where fun can turn into an obsession, and negatively impact your work, study and/or relationships.

Pokémon Go certainly has some positive points

Circle of Pokemon Go trainers trying to catch Spearow -  In Gaming Psychology this is good social interaction

In terms of gaming psychology, it can be a way to have fun, get outside and interact with people of all ages. It can also create a sense of belonging and can bring people together. 

The problem exists when gamers become a little too obsessed, and begin to spend more and more of their time immersed in the game. This is where accidents occur, and other aspects of life become negatively impacted. 

As such, by all means enjoy Pokémon hunting – but set firm limits around how frequently you play!


Interested in more of our Integrative Health Expert, Leanne Hall's articles? Read more of her life coaching and career advice on our Community Careers Blog.


Leanne Hall

Leanne has been transforming lives for over 15 years as the mind and body expert for Channel 10 and as a practising clinical psychologist. Leanne Hall motivates her patients to achieve a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle using positive psychology and “mindfulness” techniques, holistic nutrition and exercise. Leanne's expertise covers everything from how the beauty myth impacts women's self-esteem, mental health and fitness.

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