Can monsters make us healthy?


A lot has been said about tackling obesity, about encouraging people to be more active, and overcoming ingrained habits is notoriously difficult. But is Pokémon Go an answer?

Initial feedback from the first week of the game seems to be that people who are normally relatively sedentary, playing games or just living more of an online than offline life, are embracing the outside and moving around more, all in the search for Pokémon. Even the @CatchEmAll Twitter account has noted the trend, tweeting FitBit data highlighting a surge in activity.

The key to getting people moving is to make it fun, and to make it almost secondary to their aim – it’s not time out of their day to spend in a gym or exercise done as a chore, its taking part in something and, as a side effect, getting some unintended health benefits.

Are the benefits more than just physical? Anecdotal evidence is emerging of users, who have previously experienced anxiety, feeling happy to leave the house and explore, all in the name of catching Pikachu and friends.

So what can we learn from this? Firstly, that it’s hard to overcome ingrained habits and behaviours. Communications strategies are trying to generate change – of belief and so of behaviour. At WE, we talk about transformative storytelling, and Pokémon Go is a great example of that. When thinking about how to support different behaviours, Pokémon Go is a reminder that it’s important to remember that people don’t like being told what to do - instead, how can a behaviour or action be nudged? And can it be made competitive? It’s not a million miles away from the musical staircase sponsored by Volkswagen (part of their ‘The Fun Theory’ project) some years ago – people took the stairs to play with the unexpected musical keys, not because they were told they should for health reasons.

Is it the end of gamification and the beginning of augmented reality hitting the mainstream?

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