Pokémon Go, currently the most popular free augmented reality mobile game, has generated $445.3 million since its release in July, 2016, while cultivating a devoted following (Iqbal, 2020). It uses the GPS on a player’s mobile device to locate, capture, and train virtual creatures, known as Pokémon, which appear in the player's real-world location. The interactive live-service game entices players to walk to collect over 600 Pokémon characters, participate in virtual team events, meet in virtual gyms, fight in interactive battles, and play in Pokémon-themed games. Interestingly, it was recently reported that many players have increased their game play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the game creator, Niantic, has changed its design to allow game play to occur more easily at home. Before, characters were typically found outside, downtown, or near busy hubs, but now players can find the characters right in their living rooms.
Now that Pokémon Go can easily be played anywhere, it may be of interest to people who may be feeling more down than usual due to working from home or simply having additional down time as a result of COVID-19. There are many common benefits of the game's standard play, including being outside, inducing light exercise, and enhancing social ties, but new scientific research shows that it also may improve mood and cognitive ability. A recent study indicated that those with a negative mood prior to playing Pokémon Go felt significantly better after game play (Alloway & Carpenter, 2020). So, if you are looking for a quick and healthy pick-me-up, Pokémon Go may be a good start, especially now that everyone can experience its mood-enhancing benefits.
While there is early evidence suggesting that Pokémon Go may reduce negative mood, researchers from the same study found that playing Pokémon Go also improves some aspects of cognition, specifically working memory, the cognitive system that holds information temporarily (Alloway & Carpenter, 2020). There are many components to working memory, but in the study, researchers found that verbal working memory, information that pertains to letters and words, improved after playing Pokémon Go. The study did not show an improvement in all components of working memory, but it did indicate that verbal working memory function is flexible and increased as a result of game play. So, after playing for extended periods of time, you may notice an improvement in how well you remember verbal information, not to mention you may even feel happier as a result.