How it works:
According to the hit game’s website, it uses a person’s iPhone and Android device camera and GPS to place Pokémon characters in real world locations, such as public art installations, historical markers and monuments in proximity to the player. In order to earn points, players must “catch” characters by taking aim with “Poké Balls.” Players are encouraged to “search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon.”
How it’s changing lives:
As those who struggle with depression know far too well, staying motivated while managing a mental disorder like depression or anxiety can be a challenge. However, shortly after the game dropped, social media users raved over the game’s ability to get them engaged.
“#PokemonGO has changed me so much for the better in only a week. Dealing with BPD, depression& anxiety it has helped me get out of the house,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Real talk – as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal. #PokemonGo,” penned another.
“I don’t care what you say, #PokemonGo has been helping my husband’s depression more than anything else ever has. ????????????,” raved yet another user, claiming the game tops any treatment.
Meanwhile, a psychologist tells Health he isn’t surprised by these reports. “I think it’s a genuinely positive development,” Ben Michaelis, PhD, an evolutionary clinical psychologist and author of Your Next Big Thing, told the publication.
“The game could provide motivation to go outside and explore the world through a sort of enhanced reality,” he explained. “It could also provide people with enough of a distraction from their fears and inner monologue to get them to do something that might be challenging for them.”
While this all sounds like fun and games (no pun intended), keep in mind, the game shouldn’t be viewed as a cure for depression. In fact, Michaelis says, “one obvious potential drawback [of the app] is that Pokémon Go could become the only way a person can interact with the world.”
How to enjoy the game the healthy way:
Moderation. Allot yourself 30 minutes a day for play—ensuring hunting imaginary creatures isn’t the only physical activity you’re taking part in each day. According to a study published in 2005, walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms. In other words, nothing tops good old fashioned exercise.