Probably today, almost everyone will know about the video game franchise Pokémon , whether it be for these or its anime series, for its comics, for its collectible card games or for any of its great range of derived products. But without a doubt, the biggest milestone in this franchise has been the release of their first mobile video game called Pokémon Go .

What therapeutic opportunities does Pokémon Go offer?

Pokémon Go is an application for Android operating systems and iOs in which its main attraction is its augmented reality type gameplay, through which, using the camera and GPS of the smartphone, we can capture Pokémon while walking down the street. The psychologist Adrian Triglia already commented in another article on several of the game’s features that have turned Pokémon Go into a kind of world fever.

It is a video game that has very simple mechanics, you just have to look at your mobile, throw Pokéballs with some aim and tap at some moments, but the key mechanics are the collectibles, taking advantage of a universe already known as the Pokémon universe.

An unprecedented revolution

The revolution caused by the launch of this video game has been totally unexpected and unique . In just seven days, it has boosted the actions of Nintendo (the main developer of Pokémon) by 93%, which is a historic milestone in the history of videogames. As a result, Nintendo promised to release the results for the first fiscal year between April and June on 27 July, in order to publicise the milestone.

On a social level, the impact of Pokémon Go has been totally surprising , populating the streets around the world with young (and not so young) people with their smartphones to capture Pokémon , causing large concentrations of young people in parks and monuments without causing major disturbances. The example of the massive concentration of people in Central Park, just because of the appearance of a rare Pokémon, is a case in point. We leave you here a link for more information about the event.

At this point, it is possible that many people are alarmed by these events, calling this phenomenon madness, however, it is important and interesting to analyze the benefits that this video game can have as a tool to, for example, treat diseases or mental disorders, given its impact.

Discovering the therapeutic power of Pokémon Go

There are many accidents and curious anecdotes caused by the Pokémon Go phenomenon that have become known during these days. What people don’t know is that there are already cases of people suffering from a number of mental disorders who, through social networks, are claiming that this video game is helping them to fight their problems, as shown by John M. Grohol in a post published on the blog of Psychcentral .

The truth of the matter is that Pokémon Go is becoming one of the most powerful tools in the world, capable of taking millions of people on long walks – which is far more than any other fitness application has managed to do. But beyond the cardiovascular applications that this video game can have, it can also have a strong involvement in the treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety or depressive conditions.

Side effects: Nintendo’s video game may fight depression

Depressive disorders, generally according to the DSM-V (2013), are characterized by a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in much of the activities, lack of appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, excessive fatigue, etc.

Thanks to the contribution of many people on social networks, we can see how Pokémon Go, thanks to the revolution it has caused, is getting many people with depression to go out and capture Pokémon and exercise , causing their mood to improve and increase their appetite due to the exercise they do, which causes a regulation of sleep and an activation of the body during long walks that eliminates the “false” fatigue that these people suffer.

Pokémon Go against anxiety and social phobia

For people suffering from anxiety, the benefits are just as striking. Anxiety-related disorder, which is more common in the non-adult population, usually takes the form of social phobia, now called social anxiety disorder according to the DSM-V (2013).

This disorder is characterized by intense fear or anxiety during the exposure of the individual who suffers it , to social situations in which there are more people than in his most intimate circle. This usually leads to escape and avoidance behaviours, leading the individual to be confined to the home due to the great fear they feel.

Thanks to the strong sense of community that has been generated among Pokémon Go players and the great feeling of inclusion that they are experiencing, the prosocial behaviours carried out among them are leading many people with social phobia problems to overcome their fears. Facing their fears in order to capture Pokémon and being doubly rewarded with the rewards of the video game and the great global acceptance among “Trainers”, is making the game a very powerful tool to overcome or mitigate these difficulties .

Some conclusions and reflections

It’s still too early to establish causal relationships between Pokémon Go and people’s psyches as this video game provides a still limited experience. However, the initial impact, as we can see, has been historical and has managed to create a movement that escapes the established until now in the community gamer , moving the context of the game from the bedroom or the dining room, to the streets of the city and producing, in a very short time, experiences of overcoming people with mental disorders of a depressive or anxious type.

Since Pokémon Go’s journey has only just begun, its possibilities are still unknown. However, we know that with proper use, this video game could become a turning point in the use of Pokémon Go as a therapeutic tool for treating mental disorders. Undoubtedly, the research carried out through this movement will be very productive and interesting for the whole community of psychologists.