Game on!

Every so often, a craze comes along that taps into a collective zeitgeist. Older adults remember yo-yos or hula-hoops or marbles or collecting a certain set of cards. If you’re younger you’ll have overdosed on virtual apps, like Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

Now, however, there’s a new craze and it’s bigger than all other crazes put together. It’s something that confirms my faith in combining my two passions, wellbeing and technology. And it’s so big, so galvanizing, that it’s got the whole world excited, not just me. What is it? Have you looked out of your window lately? It’s Pokémon Go, of course.

Pokémon Go exploded into our consciousness almost immediately after its release on 6 July this year. Within its first few days, it was installed on 5.6% of all Android devices in the US. Less than a month later it’s the most downloaded app in iTunes with user engagement surpassing Tinder and even Twitter. Nintendo’s market value’s risen by 10% already and heading higher. On a local level, you can see Pokémon frenzy everywhere, from schoolchildren searching for Pokémons on the Manly ferry to Pokémon costumed 40-year-olds in Newtown. You could even see me yesterday afternoon, with my kids, looking for Pokémons in my local suburb. Everyone’s doing it so perhaps ‘frenzy’ is understating things because at one Australian Pokémon hot-spot, homeowners had to call police to disperse the thousands of people gathered in front of their house.

Some of you may remember Pokémons from the ‘90s – it was a popular game back then. Here, it’s been reinvented: the aim of the new Pokémon Go is for players to capture, battle and train Pokémons, which are little virtual reality creatures. However, the difference between this game and others is that it inserts virtual reality into real life. Players must hunt Pokémons in streets and parks in outside locations.

Which means they have to get off their butts and walk. Pokémon Go motivates people to exercise and unlike many other virtual reality games, it doesn’t isolate. It’s a social experience, one you can do with your kids and your friends, or even organize a walking group to play the game collectively.

In fact, some experts say that Pokémon Go might unintentionally be the fastest growing health app because it motivates people to move more, results in engagement and offers reward and satisfaction. That is, it’s a perfect example of gamified wellbeing. (Far be it from me to push a point but haven’t I been telling you all along how wonderful gamification is?) Pokémon Go’s also the best example of technologically driven gamified wellbeing so far.

Why is Pokémon Go so popular? Who knows how crazes start, and why a particular one catches on. In this case, the New York Times may have a point: “What is new about Pokémon Go is both momentous and banal: It is proof that millennials, for years the young generation, are getting old. Pokémon Go is their first mass-consumption nostalgia product.”

Whatever the cause, Pokémon Go’s the flavour of the month. Like any craze this intense, it can’t last but in my opinion it marks a momentous point in wellbeing.
Many wellbeing activities are already gamified – as you know, Springday is a leader in this field – but Pokémon Go enables us to take this further.

In the future, we’ll take our fitness tasks out of gyms and studios and into the rest of our lives. We’ll combine them with exploration, adventure, quest. We’ll do them alone or with others. Our rewards will be to get fitter, to meet people and to live more fully. Pokémon Go shows that the appetite is here. Especially if your workforce is young. Let’s put the fun back into health.

And that’s always been my point. We bring our lives to wellbeing and we should bring wellbeing into our lives. So here’s to Pokémon, best craze ever.

Now excuse me, I think there’s a Pokémon waiting for me down the road…

What's new?

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