Pokémon Go and what it takes to get people outside

US and World

(WIAT) — If you spend a decent amount of time on social media, by now you’ve ran across a screenshot of a friend playing Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go is, technically speaking, an augmented-reality game in which aspiring Pokémon masters go around their city using their phones to catch those famous critters. Pokémon appear on your screen through the use of your phone’s camera according to your location information.

That location can range from them being already in your house when you activate the app (yeesh) to forcing you out of the house to hunt for your Pokémon. That premise, that you can go about your day with the mission to “Catch ’em all” giving you the extra initiative to carry out your normal routine has already enticed millions of people around the world to get involved.

But what if there was something more than super-powered cockfighting at stake?

The game’s recent release has already seen positive results from people on social media that struggle with issues in their mental and physical health. This isn’t the Pokémon of the past that lets people sit to themselves quietly in a corner, staring at a screen.

This time, you stare at a screen at a local park, on a nature trail, in a section of town you’ve never been before that may have something you’ve been looking for all along.

There’s data to back up that setting aside this extra time in nature could be good for you. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last summer states that 90 minutes in a “natural” environment can improve your mental health.

“This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases of mental illnesses like depression,” said Gregory Bratman, the lead author of the study in an interview with The Washington Post.

This is not to say that the experience is one that will bring happiness into everyone’s life. Some people have expressed concerns for personal safety due to the nature of Pokémon Go, a game that requires users to wander around unfamiliar territory with their cell phones held high.

In a piece on his Medium page, writer Omari Akil asserted his belief that Pokémon Go presents a potential danger to the black community, especially in this time of palpable racial tension throughout the country.

Akil, a self-professed “geekish human” spends 15 minutes playing the game, but most of that time is spent making sure that he’s not looking suspicious, or presenting himself as a threat. Despite your feelings on recent officer-involved shootings in this country, his heightened state of concern can be a little unsettling.

Akil’s worry that the app could put some people in hot water proved to be on the right track, as news came out on Sunday of four people allegedly using Pokemon Go to lure victims to be robbed.

Even though you definitely cannot blame the app for the ingenuity of modern criminals, it makes you think about where you’re headed when you Go. So Go have fun, but be careful.

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