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article imagePokémon Go players are happier and friendlier

By Tim Sandle     Apr 16, 2017 in Lifestyle
The strange psychological research story of the week looks into gamers, players of Pokémon Go in particular, and seeks to find out whether the character chasing adventurers are happier and friendlier than the general population.
This research question became of interest to University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologists. They’ve embarked on a study and concluded that Pokémon Go players are happy people, happier people than the norm. Overall regular players of Pokémon Go appear more likely to be positive, friendly and physically active.
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game. It was developed by Niantic for mobile devices, based on a collaboration with Nintendo. With the game, players use a mobile device's global positioning system to locate virtual creatures (the Pokémons). Launched in July 2016 the game has proved popular and has drawn in a wider demographic than might be found with a pool of traditional gamers. The app is one of the most used and profitable mobile apps with an estimated 500 million downloads worldwide.
James Alex Bonus, who was involved with the study, explains that the work was commissioned partly in response to some negative media coverage about players of the game. As he explains in his research profile: "There was plenty of negative press about distracted people trespassing and running into trees or walking into the street," says Bonus. "But you also saw people really enjoying it, having a good time together outside."
He adds further, highlighting one of the common criticisms leveled against gamers: "There's this idea that playing games and being on your phone is a negative social experience that detracts from things, but there haven't been many chances to ask large groups of players about their experiences.”
To challenge this Bonus and his fellow researchers surveyed about 400 people three weeks after the game was launched. People who said they regularly enjoyed chasing imaginary characters through playing the app were asked a series of questions concerning their emotional and social lives. Questions were also posed about levels of physical activity. The outcome of the survey was that a majority of their respondents were more likely to be those who exercise and to experience positive emotions. This was against those who did not play the game or anything similar.
Bonus states that such results challenge the prevailing descriptions of gamers. The quirky research findings are published in the journal Media Psychology. The research paper presented is called “Look on the Bright Side (of Media Effects): Pokémon Go as a Catalyst for Positive Life Experiences.”
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