Pokémon Go: The Very Best, And The Very Worst

You can catch ’em all and be the very best that no one ever was, but this game has its fair share of downsides.


AsianScientist (Aug. 23, 2016) – Pika? Pika pika. PIIIIKKKKKAAAAAAAA.

Sometimes I wonder why the human race came up with 6,500 languages when clearly you can convey all your desires by saying your name in varying tones, as all of the Pokémon demonstrate.

Or why nobody had ever thought of an activity that actually makes people want to go out into the great outdoors, out of their chairs, to get the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Recent research shows that sedentary behavior—for example, too much sitting—is associated with metabolic diseases.

You even get branded a ‘trainer’ in the process of playing Pokémon Go. Doesn’t that make you sound so much fitter already, despite the fact that you’re walking around with your eyes on your phone, trying to catch fictitious creatures in a pretend reality?

The best

The pros of Pokémon Go apparently outweigh the cons. A 28-year-old man from New York in the US was the first American trainer to catch them all. By walking from 6 pm until bedtime everyday after work for a total of 100 miles, he managed to collect them all in two weeks and lose ten pounds in the process.

There is no greater motivation than the prospect of catching them all. The game, not unlike my current, more low-key favourite cat-collecting game Neko Atsume, caters to the human compulsion of hoarding objects.

Innovative ways of using the app have sprung up rapidly in the past few months. In the US state of Michigan, a hospital used Pokémon Go to get children out of beds to socialize and to do their physical therapy. It has also reportedly helped a child with autism interact better with children his age within the hospital.

The game has also been reported to improve people’s mental health, especially depression. While there’s nothing specific about the game improving depression, we all know that exercise has been touted to improve symptoms of depression.

The game encourages you to go outside into the real world to capture Pokemon in an augmented reality on your phone, without forcing the player to interact. A large number of ‘rare’ Pokémon are also ‘grass’ or ‘water’-based, meaning that a player has to go to a grassy area or body of water to find said Pokémon. Green spaces are associated with improved mental health as well as physical health.

Furthermore, it has been shown in a Nature study that people who visit green spaces for longer periods of time have lower rates of depression and high blood pressure. People who visited green spaces more frequently also demonstrated greater social cohesion. I haven’t found Squirtle by the creek yet, but soon, maybe?

Personally, I enjoy reading the little notifications that pop up whenever I stop at a Pokéstop. A Pokéstop is where you collect Pokéballs (to catch your Pokemon with) and other items. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have noticed that there are so many art installations everywhere I go. I’d appreciate it more if more Pokéstops had stories behind them, but I guess you can’t have everything!

Businesses have also capitalized on the craze, with some shops offering themselves up as Pokéstops and/or offering discounts if you show them the game. Lures are also key to driving sales in small businesses—lure modules increase the rate of Pokemon generation in a small radius around the shop for half an hour. Ben’s Independent Grocer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is offering up their very own ‘bokemon’ game in a bid to get customers to win supermarket vouchers and prize money.

The worst

Despite the increase in movement among sedentary urban dwellers, the cons of Pokémon Go can be quite harrowing. Two men in California fell off a cliff while looking for Pokémon, despite urgent warnings within the game reminding users to not to risk life and limb for a rare Pokémon. In Singapore, where the game has just launched, a fight has already broken out between a Pokémon player and an angry driver.

A few weeks ago, I was in a small grassy park and many players were clustered in the area. What surprised me was the silence and the fact that every single person was looking down at their phone. If this isn’t a harbinger of a dystopian future in which machines control humans and where Donald J. Trump is the leader of the free world, then I am not sure what is.

Will you catch them all?

I have stopped playing the game ever since the servers began crashing incessantly a few weeks ago, but it was fun while it lasted. I opened it up again recently when I was by a pier, and I found a couple of cool Tentacools.

However, the renewed novelty of Pokémon Go quickly wore off when a man began his sword-swallowing act in front of me—a reminder that real life can sometimes be a lot more exciting than the quest to find Pikachu.

This article is from a monthly column called Our Small World. Click here to see the other articles in this series.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Sadie Hernandez/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Annabel is currently a 2nd year Masters in Public Health student at Yale University. She received her MEng in biomedical engineering from Imperial College London in 2010. She spent the summer of 2014 researching substance abuse in Tanzania. She has a keen interest in food, yoga and metal music.

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