The recently released iOS and Android game ‘Pokemon Go‘ has accumulated worldwide headlines for the App’s unparalleled success. Only one week after its United States release, the game had amassed over 21 million daily active users, and after its highly anticipated European release, the game’s servers crashed due to an unprecedented demand. Pokemon Go, which can be downloaded for free on your mobile phone, also broke a notable record by becoming the fastest App to reach #1 on the mobile revenue charts. By looking at Pokemon Go from the perspective of a psychologist, we can determine why the game has captured the attention of people around the globe.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pokemon Go, it is based upon the idea of augmented reality, which is the term used to describe the process of enhancing individuals’ everyday environments with computer-generated sensory inputs. Geocaching concepts were also creatively assimilated into the game so that Pokemon Go players can search for, capture, train, and battle Pokemon wherever they are on a given day. Geocaching is a popular outdoor recreational activity, and ‘geocachers’ uses GPS technology to search for and find containers, filled with various items, in natural settings.
Unless you have been disconnected from the outside world for the past month, you probably know that Pokemon Go has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon. But how did this happen so quickly? We can examine the psychology of Pokemon Go to uncover the reasons for this worldwide craze.
The Psychology of Pokemon Go:
In hopes of keeping users coming back for more, Pokemon Go developers smartly integrated a number of psychological based truths into the game’s features. There are a wide variety of human brain and behavioral principles that we could examine to improve our understanding of the Pokemon Go addiction, but two of the game’s overarching concepts, in particular, are vital to inspect in order to comprehend the psychology of Pokemon Go.
It Safely Enhances our Reality: By safely enhancing users’ real-world environments with computer-generated sensory stimuli, the creators of Pokemon Go found a way to satisfy two conflicting human desires. We all naturally yearn for safety and consciously try to avoid potentially hazardous situations, but as we grow older, we also begin to covet new and exciting experiences. The primary reason the film industry has been so successful is that movies give us the opportunity to do things like fight pirates in the Caribbean or go on high-speed chases through the streets of an exotic country with the assurance that we will survive.
Pokemon Go has been able to build upon this Hollywood idea by bringing adventure and excitement to our actual lives. The normalcy of everyday routines becomes much more interesting when there is the potential to stumble upon a new fuzzy friend wherever you are. We all crave the excitement of the unknown to a certain degree, and Pokemon Go creators have found a way to make life a little more enthralling. Instead of monotonously walking through the park or grocery store, Pokemon Go players have an enhanced experience because they potentially could find something unimaginable around the next corner.
Unfortunately, since Pokemon Go was released, the virtual enhancement features of the game have led to a number of frightful stories that have also garnered media attention. For example, a 19-year-old girl in Wyoming discovered a dead body when she was searching for Pokemon, a number of users in Missouri were lured by criminals before being robbed, and two users in California fell off of dangerously high cliffs while playing the game. Even with instances such as these, however, the vast majority of players still rightfully feel safe playing Pokemon Go.
It Makes Us Feel Good: Every action that an individual takes is done so to improve their life in some way. Even in the most extreme cases of human behavior, such as addiction or self-mutilation, individuals come to believe that their actions are fulfilling some sort of need. When we are faced with a difficult decision, we always pick the option that we believe will generate the greatest feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and joy. Pokemon Go developers largely built the game around this truth, and we can look at a variety of psychologically based concepts that show how the game promotes positive emotional feelings.
The most obvious feel-good aspects of Pokemon Go are that it encourages users to exercise, venture outside of their comfort zone, and interact with other Pokemon players. It is well known that society influences our behavior in a variety of ways and labels particular individuals with generalized stereotypes. Being lazy and antisocial are just two of the more common characteristics that video game players are labeled with, and Pokemon Go developers were able to uniquely create a game that goes against these labels.
For an individual who likes video games but wants to avoid being stereotyped as a gamer, Pokemon Go offers a solution unlike any the gaming world has seen before. Instead of sitting on their couch with a controller in their hands, Pokemon Go users are rewarded for venturing outside of their basements. By giving individuals incentives to explore new locations for Pokemon, users can enjoy the health-promoting benefits of exercise. The game also helps facilitate social interaction and human connection, which have similar positive emotional effects.
The game also makes users feel good by giving them immediate gratification for completing certain tasks. If you have ever dieted, I am sure that you have been victimized by the temptation of short-term satisfaction. When a cookie or cake is staring us in the face, our long-term goals of losing weight are often overtaken by the immediate pleasure of the troubling food. For all of us, the biggest obstacle to achieving any goal is the pain of following through with the process. Plain and simple, we crave instant gratification, and Pokemon Go gives users plenty of ways to feel accomplishment and satisfaction on a continuous basis. Since it is fairly easy to find Pokemon, obtain rewards, and improve your ranking as a player, individuals don’t have to wait long periods of time to feel a sense of achievement.
Now that we have looked at the psychology of Pokemon Go, it should be clear to see how the game’s developers created a worldwide phenomenon. By virtually enhancing everyday reality and supplying gamers with positive emotional feelings, the creators of the game found a unique way to meet a number of psychological needs.