The launch of augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go certainly did not go unnoticed. The world basically went crazy for it. The game “broke the Internet” and troops of trainers entered the augmented arena, all determined to become Pokémon masters. An avalanche of media attention is what followed.

It has been twenty years since the first release of Pokémon for Nintendo Gameboy. As a matter of fact, the augmented video game is the first off-Nintendo release that has one-on-one copy for mobile. With over 50.000 downloads within its first 24 hours, the game grew more popularity than some of the top apps available. On average a user plays Pokémon Go 43 minutes and 23 seconds a day, passing Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger in daily usage. It seems that this game brings about a new social medium, literally.

The alternative reality presented in Pokémon Go is particularly interesting because it can shape social relationships among individuals. Entailing a generation bond that exceeds the surface of our screens, the game brings people together in the real world. Additionally, Pokémon Go has provided unexpected benefits for certain players suffering from mental health conditions. Around the world, users have tweeted how the game has aided them in relieving their depression and social anxiety symptoms.

According to Stephen Buckley, head of information for the mental health charity Mind, “Outdoor activities can have huge benefits for wellbeing, and can even be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety”. However, Dr. Suzanne Gage, senior research associate at Bristol University’s School of Experimental Psychology, takes a more skeptical stance to the medical potential of augmented reality: “Of course, it’s great if people find it helps them, as individuals, and gets them out of the house […] But can computer games change a person’s mental health? It’s far too early to tell”.

The launch of Pokémon Go is most certainly revolutionizing the industry, unlocking the full potential of alternative reality as healing and communities bonding tool. Join the astonishing fantasy of the 151 Pokémon friends and meet another 151 new friends in real life.

Sources: Brooklyn Magazine, The Independent. Image: Reuters

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