Getting Fit with Pokémon Go

When it comes to video games there always seem to be these ideas and prejudices flying around that they make you lazy, aggressive, anti-social and more. There are papers out there proving that video games can make you aggressive and that video game addiction is a real thing, but then there is also proof that video games achieve the opposite; people can use games to vent frustration or make friends online. Anyway, while those might be debated topics there is actually not anything to bring in against the idea that video games make you lazy, and thus, that video games cause people to become overweight. That sounds about right if you think of video games as a hobby you can only enjoy by yourself, at home, on your couch and you don’t have to leave it. However, not all video games will let you do that. In fact, do you remember Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is the product of a collaboration between the companies Nintendo, who owns the Pokémon Company, and Niantic, a company known for making augmented reality smartphone games. The idea behind the game is that you catch fictional creatures on your phone by walking around and encountering them in ‘real-life’. While using the app a GPS will track you on a map, provided by Google, and it will spawn the creatures on your phone when you get within a certain radius. By combining a hugely popular franchise with smartphone apps it is no surprise the game did well when it first came out. Part of the reason it was such a hit actually had to do with the fact that you needed to play it outside of your home because people who would get bored during their daily commute to school or work had something to do and those who initially had planned to go out more now had a good reason to.

A video by ‘Tech Insider’ showing how Pokémon Go players go wild for just one Pokémon

While the craze might have died down Pokémon Go remains a popular mobile game. You could write tons of articles about how playing Pokémon Go has injured numerous players but what I’m interested in is how the game manages to get people to exercise. I personally have seen an improvement in my mother’s physical and mental health ever since she started playing Pokémon Go. Because my brother and I both left for university and my father is out of the country often, the game keeps my mom company; it keeps her active and it helps her get her mind off of things. Overall I think it is safe to say that Pokémon Go could be a useful tool in helping people to get fit. But this was not the first time Nintendo forced people to move.

In 2006 Nintendo launched one of its best-selling consoles, the Wii, and the launching title (which is a game that is launched simultaneously with the console) was a game called ‘Wii Sports’. Since the whole gimmick of the Wii was that it was completely motion controlled it made sense that the console came with a game that made full use of motion controls. During the entire lifespan of the console all of the Wii games included forms of motion controls which meant that people had to move in order to play. One of the more health-conscious titles, ‘Wii Fit’, sold relatively well and the follow-up to Wii Sports, ‘Wii Sports Resort’ was also quite the hit. Then in 2009 the Pokémon games Heartgold and Soulsilver came out for the Nintendo DS, one of Nintendo’s handheld consoles, and included with the games were pedometers called ‘Pokéwalkers’. While playing the game one could transfer a Pokémon from the game to the Pokéwalker and take it outside. The more the player walked, the more you could do with it. This Pokéwalker is probably the closest thing to what is now Pokémon Go. Nintendo’s latest pure handheld console, the ‘Nintendo 3DS’, which is a follow-up to the Nintendo DS, included features in both the system itself as its games to have people meet up outside. The feature is called ‘Streetpass’ and it connects to other people’s 3DSes. Whenever you meet someone you can play games or exchange items. This kind of feature encourages the player to take their handheld console with them when they leave the house and it may even incentive them to go out more often.

The Pokéwalker

At this point you might think that the trend in video games to get you to exercise might be overdone and getting out of fashion, but I’m not so sure about that. The latest craze in video games is virtual reality which completely emerges the player into the game by having them put on a headset through which they can’t see anything but the game. Virtual reality games can be played with standard controllers but there is a wide variety of games available that rely on your movement alone. With the help of some research video games could very well become the future of exercise and I welcome that.