Pokemon GO: Natural Exploration or Oblivious Obsession?

If you haven’t heard of the new augmented reality app Pokemon GO, simply head to your local park. Hordes of kids, teens and downloadadults have taken to the streets to “catch ’em all” using this new interactive app that requires users  to move about their physical surroundings in order to catch Pokemon and battle other trainers. The game has taken the world by storm, and has become the object of both high praise and intense scrutiny. While many arguments exist for both sides, our blog seeks to unpack the pros and cons of using a video game to explore and experience a bioregion.

Picture this: people who once were shut inside with their gaming devices, sitting stationary for hours indoors,  are now out and about in their neighborhoods seeking new Pokemon to catch. In the short time that the game has existed, people have already begun claiming that the game has aided their mental health and that they are more active than ever before.

Earthos believes that the health and well-being of people is an essential resource for a thriving bioregion. Ideally, this game is getting people to experience the outdoors and even exercise by giving users an incentive to leave home. People are finding new, mentally and physically stimulating ways to cope with social anxiety and depression through this app. While it can be argued that players are simply glued to their phones instead of actually taking in their surroundings, we also see great potential for exploration and exposure that may not have been possible before. If playing this game is a gateway for people to begin going outside more and taking care of their minds and bodies, can the pros outweigh the cons?

Of course, we are well aware of the dangers of Pokemon GO. Users may be distracted when  they are walking around, making them prone to accidents and even trespassing . The game warns users to be alert when playing, and there have been numerous warnings about the dangers of attempting to  play while driving. These concerns are very real, and it will be interesting to see what changes are made to this (still very new) game in the coming weeks to ensure user safety.

We are also interested in this type of technology as it can be potentially used in some of our projects. For example, as we work on the Roxbury Memory Trail, we have been thinking of creating a phone app that will help people experience and understand locations on the trail. We hope that this would serve as a positive and practical application of technology in our work.

The jury is still out on whether this game is a major success or a dangerous distraction. We wholeheartedly support any effort to get people outside and into a healthy mental and physical state, as long as the effort is safe. Pokemon GO is still working out obvious glitches and pitfalls in the game, and we are anxious to see what precautions Nintendo and Niantic (the creators of the game) take to protect budding and seasoned trainers from the dangerous of the real world. For now, we applaud the players who are taking the time to explore their bioregion, and encourage them to be safe and to catch ’em all!

-Earthos Intern Team (Lauren Jackson, Omari Spears, Ellie Rochman)

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