Pokémon Go: Virtual Addiction
You see them everywhere. Kids and adults intently staring at their smartphones or tablets and pointing toward something that isn’t really there. Pokémon Go has taken the gaming world by storm on college campuses, elementary schools, family get-away sites – Pokémon Go is on the go with you or someone you know – like your kids staring at the smartphone screen in search of another Pokémon character.
A quest game, Pokémon Go combines physical reality with game play using the GPS feature of a digital device. The software tracks your real world on screen, placing Pokémon characters in random locations to send you on your next character quest.
Some of the digitally-generated characters are common and worth a few points, while others are extremely rare and, when discovered by gamers, produce an adrenaline rush. It’s the successful completion of each quest that keeps players glued to the screens of their smartphones, tablets, or other digital devices.
Characters can “power up” and team play is also possible, creating the opportunity to interact with friends and families using digital technology.
Enthusiasts of Pokémon Go claim the game is highly-addictive, and police reports describe numerous Pokémon Go “incidents.”
A Pokémon Character Waiting to be Caught
The Dangers of Augmented Reality Games
Pokémon Go is the first viral augmented reality game to capture the imagination of young people and their parents who grew up spending hours playing computer games as kids.
It’s nostalgic (based on the Pokémon craze of the ‘90s), it’s interactive, it’s digital, and it’s fun as you chase down Pokémon characters in real time using the camera and mapping features of your smartphone. However, police have reported numerous incidents in which people were hurt playing Pokémon Go.
Law enforcement reports incidents of:
• smartphone theft
• a lack of attention of players staring at smartphone screens
• brawls as multiple players descend on a computer-generated cartoon figure
• pedophiles using Pokémon Go to entice victims to private locations
• lures set up by muggers to attract players to unsafe locations
• motor vehicle accidents
• roads blocked by players in search of a Pokémon creature
• a lack of social interaction and increasing isolation as the addiction takes hold
The Urges Behind Pokémon Go
Why do people become addicted to a kids’ game? What triggers the compulsion to play even when it’s not appropriate?
One reason provided by experts is that Pokémon Go appeals to our urge to collect “things” – from sports memorable to figurines. Pokémon Go creates a world in which players collect pocket monsters (Pokémon) of different values and rarity, creating an artificial “currency” that attracts many players to collect points and characters, grow them, and ultimately pit them against each other in a cartoon battle for game supremacy.
Another reason the game is addictive is the need to succeed. The plain old world seems hum-drum, but when there are computer generated pocket monsters around the next corner, the desire to hunt and capture kicks in and rewards players with a sense of success and satisfaction.
Augmented reality games place harmless “monsters” in the real world, wherever a player may be. Somewhere, nearby, is a Pokémon character ready to reward the player with a boost in self-esteem when that digital character is captured and the player’s point total increases.
It’s a game of ingenuity and constant reward, even at the risk of placing yourself in danger. Why? It’s addictive.
The Pokémon Go Addiction
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), defines addiction this way: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related [brain] circuitry.”
Games, in general, provide internal rewards for success, and this need to succeed is fostered by games like Pokémon Go. Capture a Venusaur or Charizard before the competition and players receive a boost – a change in brain activity that delivers a reward for success.
The addiction to Pokémon Go may not be as serious as an addiction to a dangerous substance, but using the ASAM definition of addiction, the brain reward for capturing a Blastoise generates positive feelings that can quickly become addictive, regardless of the player’s age.
Treating Addictive Behaviors
Tracking Pokémon characters may become an addiction, especially among younger players or players who lack social interaction skills as adults. In some cases, professional treatment may be required to mitigate unhealthy or dangerous activities like addiction to computer games, sex addiction, compulsive gambling, or eating disorders.
In these cases, the addict isn’t hooked on a substance like alcohol or meth, he or she is addicted to a behavior that can cause health and emotional problems.
Whatever compulsion drives you to dangerous behavior, get help to get back on track. Hawaii Island Recovery, located on the tropical island of Hawaii, is staffed with experts in behavior modification and relapse prevention therapies to keep you moving in the right direction.
Contact Hawaii Island Recovery today for addictive behaviors that have a negative impact on your life and the life of loved ones. Call now to speak with a knowledgeable counsellor 24/7/365.