Pokemon Go Reportedly Helping People's Mental Health, Depression

Pokémon Go is a new mobile game app that is based on the popular Pokémon game that was created in 1995. It uses a person’s smartphone camera and GPS to place Pokémon characters in the real world in proximity to the player. In order to earn points, these characters need to be “caught” by the player. Players can see the characters in their real world surroundings by looking at their screen, and use the game to capture the Pokémon character.

Although not even out for a full week, many players have already taken to Twitter and other social media to share how Pokémon Go has helped their mental health, mood, social anxiety, and depression.

We already know that exercise helps greatly with depression (along with virtually every other mental health problem), but being motivated to exercise when you’re depressed is a challenge. That’s why an engaging game like Pokémon Go can be helpful.

Pokemon Go ScreenPokémon Go does this by encouraging people to get outside, take a walk, talk to others, and explore the world around them. Granted, it’s through their smartphone acting as an interface, but walking is walking, even if the motivation for doing so is to play a game. For a person suffering from depression or another mood disorder, the idea of exercise can be nearly impossible to contemplate, much less do. For someone suffering from social anxiety, the idea of going outside and possibly bumping into others who may want to talk to you is daunting.

Here’s what just a few of the many folks on Twitter have to say about the impact on their mental health that playing Pokémon Go has had:

However, not everyone is having a positive experience with Pokémon Go:

Unintended Consequences of Gaming

I think this is a wonderful demonstration of the unintentional but beneficial consequences of gaming and producing a game that encourages healthy exercise. Hundreds of app developers have tried to develop mood-altering apps by encouraging people to track their mood or providing them with encouraging affirmations. But these apps rarely catch on, and few people continue using them past the first week.

Research has long shown the benefits of simple exercise on improving mood. The developers behind Pokémon Go didn’t mean to create a mental health gaming app. But they’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive.