How Pokemon Go took over my life – and made it better
Yes, Pokémon Go’s first – almost hysterical – explosion in popularity has faded. America’s streets are filled with less and less zombie gamers, their eyes on their smartphone screens as they roam the real world in search of digital creatures.
But I’m still one of them. I play every day. Probably too much. I play it on my bus ride to work, at my desk, and – much to his chagrin – when my husband is trying to get my attention.
Right now, I’m barely level 29. Since downloading the app on July 6, I’ve registered 117 types of Pokémon in my Pokédex – the encyclopedia of creatures that players are on a quest to fill. by “catching them all”. “I captured a total of 3,558 Pokémon and visited Pokéstops, places that give out free in-game items and points for reaching the next level, 7,381 times. And I won over 700 battles in Gyms that three rival teams battle for control.(I’m on Team Valor, in case you were wondering.)
(Also see: Pokemon Go and the Lifespan of Modes in the Age of the Internet)
But my Pokémon Go obsession isn’t just a product of my compulsive personality. That’s because Pokémon Go is the only app that has managed to get me to exercise.
To understand why this is such a big deal, you have to know that I hate exercise. Of course, I love hiking and I stuck with aerial silks, a type of acrobatics where you climb long strips of cloth to swing and twirl through the air, for a year because they m offered rewards like beautiful scenery or a new high-flying ride to show off. But things like running or weightlifting have always felt like a chore to me. And while I’ve considered direct fitness apps in the past, they seemed more intimidating than challenging.
For a long time, my lazy lifestyle wasn’t a problem because I had a fast metabolism. But now that I’m approaching 30, things have changed a bit — and some clothes I’ve kept on rotation since high school were getting too tight to wear.
So for over two months I’ve been out of my house almost every morning at 5 a.m. – capturing digital creatures while listening to podcasts before most of my neighbors got out of bed or the sun came out. ‘horizon.
Nostalgia is definitely a factor here. I’m part of the Gameboy generation and have spent countless hours fighting between Kanto and Johto. But the real motivation is that like hiking or aerial silks, Pokémon Go gives me a carrot instead of a stick. I don’t just play because of my vanity or worries about the health effects of my sedentary lifestyle – I stick to it because the experience is enough to distract me from the fact that I hate sweating.
(Also see: Pokemon Go reaches a new milestone: downloaded over 500 million times on all platforms)
And it’s no coincidence: one of the goals of Pokémon Go developer Niantic was to create a fun fitness app. In an interview with Business Insider, Niantic CEO John Hanke said the game was designed to use catching Pokémon as an incentive to get users moving, unlike fitness apps that make you feel like “a failed Olympic athlete” by urging you to achieve daily goals. .
And Pokémon Go’s core mechanic – walking around – is good for you. According to the Harvard Medical School’s “Walking for Health” report, walking just two and a half hours a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by 30% as well as the risk of diabetes and cancer. And Pokémon Go’s ability to get people out has drawn praise from some medical professionals, as exercise is also good for mental health.
Niantic’s plan clearly worked on me. The app says I’ve driven over 250 miles with it open so far – although in the interest of full disclosure, District of Columbia traffic can get so bad it sometimes confuses my bus ride with walking.
Of course, my daily walks aren’t the most rigorous exercise plan. And my weight hasn’t changed much – but now I can slip into one of my favorite high school dresses.
© 2016 The Washington Post
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