Charizard, Bulbasaur and Pikachu. Have you heard of Pokémon GO, the interactive mobile game that’s actually encouraging people to go outside and be a part of society? You most likely have!
Pokémon GO was released in the UK this week and it has had great success. At the same time, we’re experiencing a substantial mental health crisis. 1 out of 4 people in the UK are struggling with a common mental health problem whereas many can’t access treatment. Hence, it’s wonderful to see that Twitter is bursting with people who are convinced that Pokémon GO has a positive impact on their mental health. Especially for people suffering from depression and anxiety.
Real talk - as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I've spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal. #PokemonGo— HiRez David (@uglycatlady) 10 July 2016
#PokemonGo has already been a better treatment for my depression than anything my doctor prescribed or therapist recommended — Jesseanne Pope (@gleefullyhello) 11 July 2016
Persuasive technology and all, we need stickiness
So what can we learn from Pokémon GO? Pokémon GO on its own won’t necessarily cure depression or anxiety. However, it can for some people be a step forward in making healthier life choices and taking care of themselves. The positive effects of getting active and regularly interacting with other people are irrefutable. If it can reduce loneliness and boost one’s self-esteem, it’s worth taking seriously. Who's to say that technology can’t stimulate people to go out?
Perhaps the most important lesson from Pokémon GO is that the focus shouldn't always be on what people should be doing in order to stay healthy. It should be about listening to what people really like. This helps us understand "stickiness" - the factor that relates people to healthy behaviours.
The human aspect
The human aspect in current technologies is too often overlooked. Behaviour doesn't change when you tell someone repeatedly to change his or her behaviour. Do you think the man in this video is happy with his persuasive technology?
We don't think so! Mental health is a serious matter - fun should be allowed while you master your own wellbeing. Perhaps this is a crucial ingredient for getting people to actually create behavioural changes in their life.