It might be hard to think of video games as a tool to help people with any kind of mental illness, but according to a flurry of posts on Twitter from Pokemon GO players over the last few days since its initial launch, the game is helping them with their issues of anxiety and depression in a number of ways. Pokemon GO is the second augmented reality game from developer Niantic which many mobile gamers might be familiar with from their previous game Ingress. Just like Ingress, Pokemon GO requires players to navigate the real world and explore their surroundings in search of Pokemon to capture and collect. While this may simply be a childhood dream realized for many, for some it’s proving to be a way of dealing with their mental illnesses in a positive and healthy way.
While the mental health benefits are mostly from actual players who are describing the positive effects the game has had on them personally, Dr. John Grohol states that he thinks the impact of a game like Pokemon GO can be “really beneficial.” Grohol, who specializes in how technology impacts human behavior and mental health also states that there is plenty of “really clear” research boasting the positive effects of exercise on a person with depression, highlighting that more exercise can help decrease the feelings of depression that person may be having.
Naturally, getting out and being active will have a positive effect on the physical health too, which is another aspect that Pokemon GO players are beginning to voice. The game has even led to Jawbone seeing a pretty massive increase in the step activity of their fitness tracker users, as Jawbone notes a rise of about 63 percent in steps taken since the launch. Not only that, but a healthier body can also have positive effects that lead to a healthier mind which may be more of an incentive to give the game a try. Of course, it should be noted that the mental health benefits are not necessarily linked to Pokemon GO directly, but rather the idea behind it, which is the aspect of having to get out to play the game which is causing people to interact with others on top of being more active. While the game definitely seems to helping a wide range of people, Grohol notes that things such as this shouldn’t be considered a replacement to a more professional treatment. Having said that, he does indicate that it can be a great first step that leads to more professional treatment which is still a good thing.