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Game Changer

The current Pokémon Go craze has benefits that go beyond the joy of pursuing the game, two ONU faculty members explain.

For example, it breaks the gaming stereotype by encouraging interaction and building a sense of community among players, according to an Ohio Northern University faculty member who is well-versed in video games and community-building.

“As a society, we have lost many of our traditional gathering places and social centers,” said Erica Neely, Ph.D., ONU associate professor of philosophy. “However, I think people still have that innate desire to connect with others, but many do not have a clue how to go about it. Games such as Pokémon Go offer that opportunity. Pokémon Go provides a relatively painless social experience for people. It encourages people to interact and collaborate. Also, players instantly have something in common with each other, which allows them to bond.”

“In all, it is a nice thing. We all have that drive to connect with others. As people move around more and communities become more transient, this is a way that technology can help to overcome those challenges.”

As Neely notes, this is a somewhat contradictory endeavor in how most individuals view video games.

“This somewhat breaks the mold since video games are something we tend to pursue in isolation or in an arcade with minimal interaction with others,” she said.

Neely has published articles on video games and ethics as well as the nature of communities.

Further, Pokémon Go could provide a step in the right direction in regards to health benefits for its players. “This game may be getting people of all ages to pursue physical activity they previously were not doing. If playing this game gets people who would otherwise spend their spare time laying on the couch eating potato chips to get up and move, I see its benefits,” said Ohio Northern University Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology Scott Swanson.

According to Swanson, the Pokémon Go craze may be luring several individuals into a workout regimen.

“For many people, ‘exercise’ can be a word they do not like. Playing Pokémon Go, which is similar to a modern-day scavenger hunt, is a great way to start an activity regimen in a way that is enjoyable. Anything that gets people to move is beneficial. This could be a great way to reach the 85 percent of the population who do not get enough exercise in their daily routines.”

Swanson notes that walking is a great activity, and this type of exercise reduces the risk of maladies such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

According to Swanson, the real test is if this trend results in long-term lifestyle changes. “I would hope that many of the people playing this game feel better, lose weight, and see walking or other exercise as something they want to continue.”

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