Walking Around with PokĂ©mon GO
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
The worldwide phenomenon Pokémon GO will celebrate its one-year anniversary this July. According to Polygon, the augmented reality game has been downloaded on mobile phones over 650 million times—more than twice the population of the United States of America. That’s a lot of downloads, which means a lot of Pokémon caught, a lot of gym battles, and—as the title of this article implies—a whole lot of walking.
The game is a simplified version of the Pokémon video games on handheld systems. You receive a starter Pokémon, catch monsters and level them up, and battle at gyms against other Pokémon. PokéStops placed at multiple locations give out various items that assist you in becoming a better Pokémon Trainer. The game is free-to-play, with the option to purchase additional items with real currency should your inventory run low. It’s a terrific game packed with a lot of content, and the reason why I love it so much isn’t just for catching Pokémon or fighting at gyms. It’s because it got me outside walking more.
Besides throwing Poké Balls, you can hatch Pokémon while they’re in eggs to obtain them. The game gives you an incubator that lets you hatch eggs an unlimited number of times, though you can only hatch one egg per incubator. (You can purchase more with your own money or receive them at specific Trainer levels, though these incubators are limited to three uses.) How do you hatch an egg? It's simple—you walk around. Each egg requires a certain number of kilometers walked before it hatches. Very common Pokémon require 2 km, common Pokémon need 5 km, and less common Pokémon call for 10 km. (For my non-metric friends, that equals roughly 1.2, 3.1, and 6.2 miles, respectively.) You must place an egg in an incubator for it to accumulate kilometers walked, and you can hatch multiple eggs at once. The Pokémon that hatches is random; you may or may not already have it in your roster. However, hatched Pokémon do tend to have a higher CP (Combat Power, used for fighting other Pokémon in gyms), and give out more XP (experience points, used for leveling up Trainers) and Candies (used for evolving and strengthening Pokémon). The allure of the eggs is that the Pokémon inside is a mystery until it hatches. Much like a ? Block in the Mario series, you never know what you’ll get unless you find out for yourself.
I mainly play the game to hatch eggs, of which you never really run out. You can hold a maximum of nine eggs in your inventory, but if you pass by a PokéStop when your egg stash is eight or fewer, you’ll usually receive one. This encourages the player to keep walking and hatching eggs, while at the same time getting the player off their chair and outside walking. For someone like me who works at a desk job, it’s a breath of fresh air when I go on my breaks. I can walk outside, not just to hatch eggs, but to also get moving. It’s encouraged me to exercise more by going to a real gym in the morning, spending half of my lunch hour walking some more, and finding other PokéStops around town, especially to rack up bonuses for visiting them several days in a row. It’s also encouraged me to pay more attention to what I’m consuming and make smarter choices about my meals. For others who may not have the time to exercise during the day, walking while hatching eggs is a great reason to get moving at even the shortest intervals. Reports and anecdotes have surfaced about Pokémon GO helping players lose weight and even helping them with depression, such as threads on Reddit and news stories on CNN and Allure.
With its simplicity and appeal to all types of gamers, Pokémon GO is a fun game to play. And with the added benefit of encouraging players around the world to get moving, there’s no doubt that it’s one easy way people can get healthy. Gotta hatch ‘em all!