Pokemon Go: The “unintended” health & fitness app

Unless you have been living in a cave, you will probably have heard about Pokemon Go, the game that is taking the world by storm – with about 7.5 million downloads on both Apple and Android to date.

Unfortunately though, the game is not yet available today in Singapore – and so I can only wait with bated breath for the Pokemon Go’s official release here in Singapore.

Pokemon Go is taking the world by storm. [Photo from www.theverge.com]

Pokemon Go is taking the world by storm.
[Photo from www.theverge.com]

Going outdoors and catch Pokemon

Based on Nintendo’s 1990s hit video game franchise, Pokemon, the game has a simple objective – to catch ‘em all. There are no restrictions or time limits in this game, and there are no consequences should you fail your mission as a Pokemon Trainer. But then again, there are some notable differences in Pokemon Go, as compared to your typical Nintendo console game.

This is because instead of keeping players indoors, the Pokemon Go game actually encourages players to download the game onto the iOS or Android devices and go outside to literally catch the Pokemon characters.

The game is able to achieve this by tapping on your phone’s GPS and camera together with augmented reality technology to “implant” the Pokemon into the real world. I have always wondered what it would be like if Pokemon really existed in the real world. But as it stands now, I suppose that this game is then possibly the closest that we may come, to that.

Besides catching the Pokemon, the game also has PokeStops and Gyms that are all based on real world locations – this also encourages players to meet up in person and have face-to-face conversations rather than chatting to each other online. For example they can be positioned in local churches or parks.

So in that way, the game encourages people to actually go outdoors, get a workout, and mingle with each other socially – rather than cooping themselves up inside their own homes to play, which a lot of games these days, encourage!

The app is encouraging people to go out and exercise. [Photo by www.theverge.com]

The app is encouraging people to go out and exercise.
[Photo by www.theverge.com]

I think that this is a rather innovative concept – because many people are leading sedentary lifestyles today and are not getting enough exercise. Today’s lifestyle is one of the main reasons why obesity today is rising, and Pokemon Go can be the unintended “health app” to kickstart the reduction of the obesity pandemic.

Multiple online and social media reports of players having sore legs and butts – through many kilometres of walking, running or cycling, have all but confirmed this.

Not only that; I have also heard that the Pokemon caught in the game is location-specific, just like the Pokemon themselves are. For example, water-based Pokemon such as the Pokemons Psyduck and Horsea would probably be found in the real world near bodies of water.

So for instance if this is true, in Singapore these may include the Marina Bay Waterfront or East Coast Beach. On the other hand, I suspect that grass-type Pokemon can be caught at places in Singapore such as Bishan Park or amongst the MacRitchie trails. But don’t hold my word for it though as I have been unable to download the game yet.

Has overtaken many other popular smartphone apps

The popularity of Pokemon Go is such that it has overtaken many other notable apps such as Tinder and Twitter – in terms of downloads. For example, in fact as of July 8, Pokemon Go had been downloaded on more than 5 per cent of all smartphones in the United States, compared to 2 per cent for Twitter.

This is quite amazing considering that Pokemon Go is only available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand last week, and now Europe, where it has just been launched today.

Pokemon Go in action via a smartphone.

Pokemon Go in action via a smartphone.

Brand New Concept

Based on what I have heard, I think that the main reason for the success of Pokemon Go is that the concept of the game – to combine augmented reality with real-world situations – is brand new and something quite exciting, yet at the same time it capitalises on the nostalgia of an entire generation – who had grown up playing the original Pokemon games.

In fact that said, perhaps Pokemon Go may even pave the way for other similar games to be created in a variety of genres.

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