By @TheMarkDalton

In case you may not have noticed, there is a new game which is completely blowing up right now. Its all over social media and it is getting everyone a lot more active. Pokemon Go is a new augmented reality game which challenges you to “catch em all.”

Pokemon Go was released last week for iPhone and Android. It is not available worldwide yet as demand has been so high that the developers are trying to stop the servers becoming too overwhelmed and are running a slow roll out. At the moment the game is not officially available in Ireland however users have been cunning about getting their hands on it. Personally I used my US iTunes account to download.

You are tasked with chasing down and catching Pokemon in virtual gyms and outdoor spaces. You capture them by throwing Poke Balls and the entire experience is played out through augmented reality on your device through the camera.

Exercise

You are literally going out into the world to chase Pokemon down and the game has been a big hit due to the level of interactivity.

You physically have to run around to catch Pokemon, the hours can pass when you are trying to find Squirtle or Pikachu. Sounds like it is for kids, right? Not so much. Pokemon Go has had adults running around in public like crazy people. People have become addicted and suddenly exercise doesn’t seem like a chore.

My dear mother has spent the past number of days proclaiming the world has gone mad, we are all nuts and we need to get a life. My question is, how can it really be a bad thing if people are putting more steps on their FitBits in one week since they first got them?

That is not all, people have also been tweeting about the social aspect of Pokemon Go as they are meeting new people at Pokestops or virtual gyms.

Of course Pokemon Go is not the first game to encourage exercise. Wii Fit was released in 2007 and was focused on sports but the key difference is that Pokemon Go is not about getting fit. It is about enjoying the game and having a good time playing. There is no focus on getting exercise, it just sneaks up on you.

Mental Health

Another massive benefit which doctors and psychologists are heaping praise on Pokemon Go for is the positive effect it is having on mental health. Gamers have been taking to social media to praise how the game has had a positive impact on their mental health just days after release.

The game is giving people an incentive to go outside and the combination of exercise and fresh air while spending time outdoors is doing wonders for their brain.

As an avid gamer, it has always been painful to see people label video games as being associated with laziness – an introvert tucked away in a dark room surrounded by junk food with a headset on for hours on end. That is just not the reality of how it happens.

Pokemon Go seems to be reinventing the way people view gaming. It is providing people with a much needed mental break and a healthy form of escapism from the pressures and the grind of daily life.

Who cares if this is what it takes to get people out to exercise? The point is that we have found something which is going to motivate people to get out and exercise. People have a reason to leave their home and engage with others who are also playing the game – face to face.

Be careful

As I mention, at the time of writing this piece the Pokemon Go game is not yet available in Ireland. However reports today are suggesting we won’t have to wait much longer.

When you do get your hands on it, please remember to be careful when you are out in public playing the game. The game does load with a warning which reminds you to always be aware of your surrounds.

Always be aware of what is happening around you, there has been a number of reported incidents in the US since the game launched such as robberies. Also, just like when you are texting or tweeting when walking down the street, playing the game in public can be just as dangerous as so much of your attention is fixed on the screen.

When you do download the game and start to play, remember to be cautious of everything that is happening around you. Getting too lost in what you are doing on your phone while in public can make you an easy target for criminals.

UPDATE: Pokemon Go has started rolling out in Europe and we expect a launch in Ireland soon.

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