There’s no secret that childhood obesity has become a greater problem in society. There have been a number of contributing factors to this, such as television programming and the continued rise of video games. Whereas children once found enjoyment in sports and building forts, many now seek video games and programming as entertainment. The loss of activity has resulted in a lack of focus on fitness, leading children to lead unhealthy lifestyles.
How do we respond to this?
Back in 2010, the Task Force on Childhood Obesity was formed. On paper, it sounded like a noble crusade towards ending a serious health crisis. In reality, it was just a group of overpaid government bureaucrats huddling around a table throwing obvious answers at each other. Children need to eat better, get more active, spend more time outside, etc.
But regardless of how many government bureaucrats sat around throwing around the obvious in a clear PR stunt, it didn’t solve the problem. New video game systems kept children glued to a screen, television programs kept people engaged, and backsides otherwise sat planted on the the couch.
Fast forward to 2016.
Though highly anticipated, no one, not even the Niantic Project themselves, quite anticipated how huge Pokemon Go would be. The game, which specializes in augmented reality, uses a cell phone camera and location data to turn the real world into a video game. Niantic has done this before with Ingress, a game that turns the world into a game of espionage and power, where gamers are agents with one of two teams in a global struggle.
The genius is how it lures people out of their house to play a game, but with Pokemon, it takes a popular global phenomenon to an entirely new level.
Pokemon is a game that involves trainers catching various monsters in a quest to collect them all. The series has long been popular on handheld gaming devices, starting with the Game Boy and more recently, the 3Ds. Now with Pokemon Go, it’s the same basic concept. You’re a Pokemon trainer with the goal of collecting all the pocket monsters.
This time it’s for real.
Using the GPS and location data, the whole world is full of Pokemon. Using the mobile application, you can locate a number of the total 151 original Pokemon and catch them. Given the new appeal, as well as the nostalgia of an entire generation, the game has exploded with popularity. After the game was rolled out in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, rollout had to be stopped until the servers could be stabilized and improved to handle the unanticipated level of traffic.
There have been that many people who are now up and around, moving all over the place, just to play a game. But the genius of the game is that it is getting people to exercise and do so having fun.
It also brings people together in town. Niantic uses landmarks around cities such as libraries, schools, and parks to be digital gym locations, where trainers can come have Pokemon duels. There are also Pokestops, which are the same types of landmarks, where people can go to get a refill of items like potions and Pokeballs.
Given the importance and significance of location, not only is Pokemon Go getting children and adults out of the house, it’s bringing them together in central locations and meeting other people with similar interests. It’s bringing people together at places of significance to the community, creating new social bonds and a larger sense of community.
Even more exciting for Poketrainers and free market advocates is just how big of a hit it has been. In less than a week on the mobile markets, it has already begun rivaling many major social media and Internet websites like Tinder and Twitter.
Once again, the free market prevails where government couldn’t. Forcing school lunch standards, getting certain foods away from children, or going on a national PR tour hasn’t changed anything for the better. Niantic Project on the other hand took a children’s game and made it a global hit that is not only attracting children, but many adults as well. As for the implications for augmented reality, the sky is the limit given the success of games like Ingress and Pokemon Go. Because of the innovation of creative minds, the future of video games is fun outside and around the world, tapping into the heart and mind of human imagination.