What can Pokémon Go do for your council and community?

Could the Pokemon Go craze have a positive impact on your community?

This article in Public Sector Executive highlights the potential opportunities for local services and community health and activity from the new Pokemon Go craze!


What can Pokémon Go do for your council and community? 28.07.2016 (Go to original article for linked articles)

I’m sure you’ve seen all the headlines over the past few weeks confirming that Pokémon Go is the newest craze across the UK. It’s hard not to notice it when so many people have started stumbling into you when walking down the street because they’re too engrossed in their phones whilst playing Niantic’s trailblazing – and somehow also nostalgic – Artificial Reality game.

But beyond just excessive phone use and increasingly drained batteries, there’s something in that game for everyone. For local authorities, it offers a wide breadth of fresh and exciting opportunities to capitalise on the new obsession in order deliver something positive and – believe it or not – healthy for the population.

Eventually, as the game’s server gets used to the mammoth amount of people playing at once, Pokémon trainers will also be able to battle each other anywhere – not only in Gyms. While this may eventually divert attention away from libraries, it will again offer councils the opportunity to lure players to points of interest, encourage greater integration between council services and public users, and use social media to invite players to self-hosted meet-ups that can ultimately help tear down barriers between councillors and their communities.

Encouraging public health

Another major focal point is the game’s healthcare potential. Because it is powered by Artificial Reality tech and GPS connectivity, the app effectively forces you to walk around in order to discover the Pokémon hiding in your locality. Some of its features also entirely rely on walking: you can incubate ‘Pokémon eggs’, for example, that require players to walk two, five or even 10 kilometres before the egg can hatch.

This is effectively the holy grail of public health. What many local authorities have been trying to do for years with countless health initiatives to get people walking, Pokémon Go has achieved in one fell swoop. Children, teenagers and even adults who play the game are forced to leave the house, walk through parks, hunt for rivers and lakes to find ‘Water-type’ Pokémon, and tread new ground to discover new types of monsters they haven’t already collected. It comes as no surprise that so many local businesses and public locations have begun reporting increased amounts of ‘foot traffic’ already.

This in itself represents a great step forward to public health as a whole, with many people engaging in outside activity they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Staying fit – and walking the NHS-recommended 10,000 steps a day – has finally become fun.

But how can councils capitalise even further on this? An easy solution is hosting meet-ups, hikes or trails through the city – think art circuits, but with virtual monsters instead. Local authorities can also stimulate communities to get together at the weekend and go searching for Pokémon together, offering badges and social media buzz as rewards; they can partner with charities to raise money for public health causes during Pokémon-hunting events; they can host public competitions or weight loss-based Pokémon races; engage school children in outdoor activities; and even make Pokémon-based mental health campaigns that highlight the benefits of exercise and social interaction to issues like depression and anxiety.

The new game craze might not be a panacea to childhood obesity or prevention initiatives, but don’t let its benefits pass you by – once the initial discomfort with what seems like a Zombie-struck mass of young people attached to their phones quiets down, make sure to start making the most of what the revolutionary game has to offer.

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