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Welcome to the New World of Pokemon GO

Ask anyone and they will tell you I’m not a gamer.  Unless monopoly counts, I do love a good board game on occasion.  I have never understood the draw of electronic gaming.  However, I know that there are millions of you out there that do.  As a non-gamer I’ve been astounded to see my social media newsfeeds and newspapers flooded with stories about Pokemon Go.  It isn’t even in Canada yet!  Why is this such a phenomenon?

Quick disclaimer to those who have never heard of this game.  Pokemon Go is a digital app for smart phones and tablets that uses GPS and camera technology to send users out of their homes to ‘catch’ digital Pokemon and battle them.  Some are rare and difficult to find, others are relatively simple.  The smart phone will show what appears to be a Pokemon overlaid onto the screen.  There are things called Gyms, that allow you to battle against other users and Pokestops, which I believe are just hubs where you’ll find a fair amount of Pokemen (I’m assuming Pokemen is the plural form!).  These gyms and Pokestops are in real locations, coffee shops, churches, etc.  As for the other details, you may need to check in with someone who actually plays it.  There are millions of them out there – Pokemon Go has more active users than Twitter or Tinder and it has only been out for a week!

I am not a psychologist, nor will I ever pretend to be, but I am someone who is a bit opinionated, so here goes with the reason why Pokemon Go is so popular as per Rachel:

  • Inherently we all crave excitement and adventure. Some people indulge by jumping out of airplanes or climbing Everest.  Others have Netflix marathons of the show 24.  And many fall somewhere in-between on the comfort level of adventure spectrum.  Gaming in general transports the user to a world full of excitement and adventure while still maintaining the safety of being within a familiar environment.  Pokemon Go has taken the safety of traditional gaming and moved it up a step or two on the excitement spectrum!  Users are forced to leave their homes and interact within their community if they want to have success.
  • Deep down humans have a desire for interactions with other humans. Some of us are introverts and some are extroverts, but no one wants to live a completely isolated life.  In the gaming world, this created a phenomenon of multi-player games.  Real people playing a game together and interacting with one another digitally.  Pokemon Go has again escalated this aspect of gaming and the human need to connect and has created real life interactions with other humans.
  • I am 100% convinced that everyone knows that sitting on a game console all day is not the healthiest choice physically. However many people lack the motivation to get up and doing something active or exercise.  Pokemon Go takes away the guilt of being lazy and encourages physical activity.  I can see many fitness apps being developed utilizing the same technology.  Zombie Run, which has been around for a while is a great example.  Turning a task that someone doesn’t enjoy into a fun game is the easiest way to get it done.  Remember when you were a child and your mom raced you to see who could clean up the fastest!
  • Pure Nostalgia. Pokemon has been around for 25 years.  A good bulk of people playing the game now are remembering playing it as a child and are even playing it with their own children.  From what I have seen, a good bulk of players range from about 20-40 somethings.  Pokemon is familiar and can bring people back to the care-free place of childhood.  No bills, no mortgage, etc.

So why am I writing about Pokemon Go on a health and safety blog?  First and foremost, this game has turned into a pop culture phenomenon overnight, so it’s worth discussing.  More importantly, the game inherently has a health and safety aspect to it.  As I previously mentioned, it is promoting physical fitness in the least threatening way possible – by not even mentioning it!  If it could only incorporate a healthy eating aspect it would be unstoppable!!  +5 points for a Kale and Quinoa Salad.  -20 points for an Ice Cream Sundae.

What can we extrapolate from this?  As health and safety professionals, it is our job to ensure people are staying safe.  But let’s be honest, it can often be viewed as a chore that gets in the way of productivity.  What can you do to make safety something that people want to do, without even thinking about it?  I love safety rewards points and systems, but let’s make sure it reward people with something they actually want!  Have a little fun and humour at your toolbox/safety meetings, this will help people stay engaged.  Do you have some other tips?  I’d love to hear them.

Final note:  If you do choose to play Pokemon Go, stay safe.  Look around when you are walking, pay attention to traffic and other people.  Do not use your phone while driving.  And do not play Pokemon Go while on your job site.  Otherwise you may end up coming to see me for a post-incident drug test!

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Rachel Rae
Business Development Manager at Health & Hearing Conservation Consultants
Rachel is dedicated to helping both companies and individuals find customized solutions for their health and wellness needs. She knows that one size does not fit all and every client is unique. Call her if you are looking for a quick, knowledgeable and friendly provider of occupational testing.

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