The power of “exergaming”

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author: elisabeth sahlmueller | contributor

Pokemon

Credit: Eduardo Woo via Flickr

This helps get players up onto their feet, while still allowing them to have fun with the game.

In 1996, Nintendo established the Pokémon franchise, and two years later it arrived in North America. Within such a short amount of time, this small game originally known as “pocket”, or “capsule monsters,” grew in popularity and gained fans worldwide. Today, it is considered the second most successful video game in the world, right behind Mario, with dozens of merchandise modelled after it and an animated television series with more than seven hundred Pokémon.

Earlier this month, Nintendo released the Pokémon GO app for iOS and Android, thereby showing that they are not afraid to modernize and stay up with the current trend of exercise being incorporated into video games. Although this app has led to troublesome behaviour in players, I believe that its goal to promote physical activity should be commended, especially when high obesity rates are currently such an epidemic.

Pokémon GO came to Canada on July 17, 2016, and quickly gained fans young, old, and new. This free downloadable app has a simple concept that includes creating your character and going around collecting Pokémon, training them and battling with others. Through Google Maps, real life locations are replaced with buildings from the Pokémon world and all of an individual’s movements mirror those of their animated character in the game.

Not only does this app stay true to the original concept of Pokémon, but it also pushes people to get up and go outside, which in my opinion is always a positive thing. Following a healthy lifestyle has always been important to me. As a child, I always enjoyed playing outside and even today, I continue to be as active as I can with the limited time available. In recent years, children have been playing outside less and less. Instead, they are choosing to stay inside glued to a screen of some sort, whether that is a video game, or their phone, and this is not good. Obesity rates in Canada have grown by 17.5 per cent since 2003 and according to Statistics Canada, only four years ago, 6.3 million Canadians were considered obese. This is a major problem and steps need to be taken to solve it.

Although video games have been referred to as a leading cause of inactivity among children, this is not a fair judgment. The video game industry has made an effort to change this criticism with the recent trend of “exergaming,” which is the combination of fitness and video games. Staying active is important for everyone because of the numerous health benefits which include better problem solving skills, coordination, stress reduction and the prevention of cardiovascular disease, multiple cancers, and hypertension. While there is not anything inherently wrong with playing video games, it becomes a problem when people spend all of their available time sitting down playing them.

Since the launch of Pokémon GO, I have heard of a few incidents that have occurred such as trespassing in graveyards, churches, businesses and government property after dark. In these cases, the app is quickly blamed; however, this is also unfair. Safety precautions for the game are listed on Pokémon GO’s website, including “never play when you’re on your bike, driving… or anything else where you should be paying attention.” Unfortunately, individuals always seem to make their own rules and do whatever they want and usually tend to take things too far.

I was never into Pokémon as a child. So, when I first heard about the app, I thought it was a bizarre concept and simply a way for Nintendo to further increase their profit, but after researching for this article, my opinion has changed. This game does a great job getting people up off their butt to have fun and exercise. The fact that it’s free makes it accessible for a larger percentage of people and shows that Nintendo is not wholly focused on making money. While Pokémon GO is a lot different from other games we are used to, this is not a bad thing. Every time I go outside, I see at least one person playing it, even if I am only a few blocks from home. I believe that anything that gets people exercising is a good thing. If this is the direction that video games and games apps are headed, we have nothing to complain or worry about.

 

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