For many parents, the amount of time children spend immersed in video games can be a big concern.
But a new study from the University of Washington found that families who played Pokémon Go together saw benefits far beyond a robust collection of lovable virtual creatures, including more exercise, more time spent outdoors and more opportunities for family bonding.
The study collected information from 87 parents who regularly played the popular mobile-based game with their children. The game involves collecting creatures from the Pokémon franchise by “finding” them in real life using a combination of GPS tracking and augmented reality gameplay.
“Location-based augmented reality games are pretty different than sitting in front of a TV or playing a typical video game, so we were interested in the way kids and their parents were sharing those experiences together,” lead author Kiley Sobel said in a statement. Sobel is a UW doctoral student in Human Centered Design and Engineering.
“People still don’t really know how to build tech that works well for families, so when this game came out of the blue and really caught on, we wanted to look at what its ingredients for success were,” she added.
Many parents reported that the game actually caused them to spend more quality time with their children, chasing down Pikachus on their way to dinner and staying up long past bedtimes to find just one more creature.
The game even prompted families to spend more time talking to each other, both about the game and about other subjects.
Because the main mechanic of the game involves physically walking places, it also encouraged parents and children alike to get more exercise than usual. One father reported that his eleven-year-old daughter had lost 12 pounds in the months they had been playing together.
Parents also said playing the game opened an opportunity to teach their kids about road safety and helped them find other fun activities near their homes.
They did report putting constraints on the game, both to stop children from becoming too absorbed and to make sure they were alert to real-world hazards. But overall, the benefits seemed to far outweigh those concerns.
The research team identified six qualities that made Pokémon Go so successful with families.
“Those include the ability to play and learn about the game together, motivation for multiple generations to engage, and features that make it easy to put the game away, such as the opportunity to put the phone away in a pocket until the next creature appears rather than constantly having to look at the screen,” according to the UW release.