Last weekend I spotted an increasing number of online articles appearing that claim Nintendo’s new Pokemon Go mobile app has a huge positive impact on mental health. Intrigued by the headlines I decided to read the articles only to discover the claims being made used a combination of existing research papers into the benefits of out of town/city walking and user tweets highlighting mental health improvement as a result of playing the game.
While I appreciate that Pokemon Go has benefits such as increased activity/exercise and an increased feeling of happiness as a result of its reward mechanisms causing dopamine release. These benefits should be approached with caution as they can also be associated with addiction. The game has been only been out for just shy of 2 weeks in some parts of the world, so it is too early to gage if there are any negative effects of playing the game. What happens when you catch all the Pokemon and have no further motive to play and what effect (if any) does this have on your mental health and wellbeing? Is there a come down from not playing?
The media need to act on the side of caution when making recommendations regarding mental health applications, especially those that have no grounded research to support their benefits. As far as we know the adverse effects of these applications may be just around the corner.
My closing thoughts are enjoy the game for what it was designed for “entertainment”.