Pokémon Go – Top 3 Pros and Cons

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Source: Noah Tesch

Pokémon Go had more than 21 million daily active users in the United States during its July 2016 debut week, becoming the most popular U.S. mobile game ever. The game has since surpassed social media apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter for daily use on Android devices. [1] [2]

The basic premise of the game is for the players to capture Pokémon in a kind of scavenger hunt that uses the GPS on their mobile phones while walking around in the real world. The game’s slogan is “Gotta catch ’em all.” [3]

As of July 8, 2020, Pokémon Go was still the most popular location-based game with 576.7 million unique downloads globally in the game’s first four years. The game is estimated to have earned $3.6 billion worldwide since 2016, with $445.3 million in the first half of 2020 during COVID-19 (coronavirus) lockdowns, via micro-transactions within the game. [18]

While the game may no longer be constantly in the news in 2023, a simple search shows Pokémon Go is going strong with a reported 21.12 million downloads in the first half of the year and scheduled events such as the Nov. 7-12 “Festival of Lights,” an annual game that “puts the focus on Electric-type Pokémon, who can illuminate these dark and cold fall days and keep us warm inside our homes,” according to Sports Illustrated. [33] [34] [35]

Is Pokémon Go Good for Society?

Pro 1

There are mental and physical health benefits from playing the game.

Walking around is necessary to play the game, and users are getting physical health benefits from the exercise. [4]

63-year-old Robin Tarry told the BBC that the game has encouraged he and his wife, Pauline, to walk about 30 miles a week, helping him lose about 42 pounds and manage his diabetes. [19]

One user told BuzzFeed, “I have struggled with motivation and energy since I was 9, when I developed severe depression… But as soon as I got Pokémon Go I was able to leave the house, and I walked outside for hours and suddenly found myself enjoying it. I had the instant rush of dopamine whenever I caught a Pokémon, and I wanted to keep going. Then today and yesterday I purposely put myself in social situations, going to the mall, just to play.” [5]

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Pro 2

The game is bringing people together and creating a sense of community.

By exploring their communities and sharing information about where to find creatures, players are interacting with strangers.

One player tweeted about a late night experience during which he befriended two other players of a different race and age group. While they were talking, they were approached by a police officer. After they explained the game to him, the officer also started playing. [6]

“[O]verall, this is a positive moment, a moment of real community and good feelings all thanks to a mobile game and some adorable Pokémon,” writes Forbes contributor Erik Kain. [7]

During the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic lockdowns, Niantic (the parent company of Pokémon Go) enhanced the game’s virtual social features so players could more easily connect in-game when they couldn’t as easily explore their physical communities. A bonus to these adjustments is that they allow for easier play for people with disabilities, expanding the gaming community. [20]

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Pro 3

The game is a boon to local businesses.

As people explore their towns while playing the app, they are discovering new shops, restaurants, and more. This increase in foot traffic is a boost to businesses.

“With Pokémon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers, and for very little money,” says business expert Walter Chen. Some stores around the country have reported an increase in sales between 5 and 30 percent. [8] [9]

When local businesses began to close during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Niantic launched the Local Business Recovery Initiative on June 15, 2020. Players nominated their favorite local small businesses to have a storefront integrated into the Pokémon Go app for a year for free. [22]

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Con 1

Playing the game can lead to injury.

According to news reports, users have tripped, fallen into a lake, crashed a car, fallen on railroad tracks resulting in an amputated leg, and sustained other injuries while playing. [10] [11] [23] [24]

The National Safety Council released a statement urging people to be more cautious while using Pokémon Go, saying in part, “Reports of close calls associated with playing Pokémon Go already are rolling in. The Council urges gamers to consider safety over their scores before a life is lost. No race to ‘capture’ a cartoon monster is worth a life.” [12]

Head and neck injuries due to distracted drivers spiked after the launch of Pokémon Go. Distracted users are also inflicting injury on others. A driver playing Pokemon Go struck and killed an 85-year-old woman in Japan. [25] [26]

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Con 2

People are playing the game in inappropriate places.

In their quest to capture creatures, players are failing to respect their surroundings, spawning countless articles, such as Evan Dashevsky’s compilation, “18 Completely Inappropriate Places to Play Pokemon Go,” for PCMag. The list includes evidence that players have captured Pokémon in the emergency room, birthing rooms, Auschwitz, funerals, and on an active battlefield near Mosul, among others. [27]

Arlington National Cemetery released a statement saying, “Out of respect for all those interred at Arlington National Cemetery, we require the highest level of decorum from our guests and visitors. Playing games such as Pokémon Go on these hallowed grounds would not be deemed appropriate.” [13]

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has also asked visitors to stop catching Pokémon on-site. [14]

The 9/11 Memorial in New York City is also inundated with players. “A lot of people died here. It’s a place to reflect, not to play a game,” a visitor told TIME magazine. [15]

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Con 3

Criminals are targeting distracted users, leaving players susceptible to crime.

Four teens in Missouri were arrested on suspicion of committing at least 10 armed robberies by using the app to lure users to a specific location. [16]

A police department in Philadelphia warned on Twitter, “Be mindful on what you play online, A string of armed robberies perpetrated by suspects who targeted their victims using Pokémon Go.” [17]

Players have also been victimized when they accidentally stumble upon and witness crimes in progress. Distracted players have been victims of stabbings, gunshot wounds, beatings, and murders. [23] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32]

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Click for an Encyclopaedia Britannica video demonstration of Pokémon GO

Discussion Questions

1. Is Pokémon Go good for society? Explain your answer with pros and cons.

2. Can video games improve physical and mental health? Why or why not?

3. What rules should people follow when playing location-based games such as Pokémon Go? Explain how your rules might help the player.

Take Action

1. Examine the brain benefits of Pokémon GO for people on the autism spectrum at the University of Utah.

2. Consider the public health implications of Pokémon GO at the American Journal of Public Health.

3. Analyze the dangers of Pokémon GO at the American Safety Council.

4. Consider how you felt about the issue before reading this article. After reading the pros and cons on this topic, has your thinking changed? If so, how? List two to three ways. If your thoughts have not changed, list two to three ways your better understanding of the “other side of the issue” now helps you better argue your position.

5. Push for the position and policies you support by writing US national sen

ators and representatives.


1.Sarah Perez, "Pokémon Go Tops Twitter's Daily Users, Sees More Engagement Than Facebook," techcrunch.com, July 13, 2016
2.Joseph Schwartz, "Pokémon GO: The Data behind America's Latest Obsession," similarweb.com, July 10, 2016
3.German Lopez, "Pokémon Go, Explained," vox.com, July 13, 2016
4.Andrew Richdale, "Is Pokémon Go Good for Travel?," afar.com, July 12, 2016
5.Alicia Melville-Smith, "Playing Pokémon Go Is Helping People with Mental Health Issues Feel Better," buzzfeed.com, July 10, 2016
6.Mark Molloy, "Man Searching for Pokémon at 3am Caught up in 'Drug Deal' Mix-Up," telegraph.co.uk, July 10, 2016
7.Erik Kain, "'Pokémon GO' Is More Than Just a Game and It's Bringing People Together," forbes.com, July 11, 2016
8.Walter Chen, "Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small Local Businesses. Here's How It Works," inc.com, July 11, 2016
9.Dylan Segelbaum, "'Pokémon Go' Helps Sales at Some Local Businesses," ydr.com, July 12, 2016
10.Andrea Park, "Pokémon Go Users Are Reporting Injuries, Car Crashes and Sunburns in Their Quests to 'Catch 'Em All'," people.com, July 12, 2016
11.11. Gael Fashingbauer Cooper "Gotta Soak 'Em All! Pokemon Go Hunter Falls into Pond While Playing," cnet.com, July 12, 2016
12.National Safety Council, "Statement from the National Safety Council on Pokémon Go Safety Concerns," prnewswire.com, July 12, 2016
13.Arlington National Cemetery, "ANC Policy Regarding Pokemon Go & Other Smartphone Gaming," arlingtoncemetery.mil, July 12, 2016
14.Allana Akhtar, "Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz Want Pokémon Go Hunts out," usatoday.com, July 13, 2016
15.Melissa Chan, "Pokémon Go Players Anger 9/11 Memorial Visitors: 'It's a Hallowed Place'," time.com, July 12, 2016
16.Ryan W. Miller, "Teens Used Pokémon Go App to Lure Robbery Victims, Police Say," usatoday.com, July 11, 2016
17.Philadelphia Police Department 35th District, Twitter post, twitter.com, July 10, 2016
18.Kim Key, “Who Is Still Playing Pokemon Go?,” screenrant.com, July 8, 2020
19.Ryan Craddock, “Pokémon GO Players Share Stories Of Improved Health And Social Lives,” nintendolife.com, Jan. 2, 2020
20.Niantic, “Embracing Real-World Gaming from Home,” nianticlabs.com, Mar. 30, 2020
21.Bryant Francis, “How Pokemon Go Evolved in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” gamasutra.com, Aug. 5, 2020
22.Moor Insights and Strategy and Zane Pickett, “Pokemon Go-Vid: Niantic, Inc. Launches Local Business Recovery Initiative,” forbes.com, July 12, 2020
23.Pokémon GO Death Tracker, pokemongodeathtracker.com (accessed Aug. 17, 2020)
24.Chris Baynes, “Man Has Leg Amputated after Falling on to Railway Tracks while Playing Pokemon Go,” independent.co.uk, Dec. 3, 2018
25.Japan Today, “85-Year-Old Woman Fatally Struck by Driver Playing Pokemon Go,” japantoday.com, Apr. 16, 2018
26.Patti Verbanas, “Phone Distraction Injuries Spiked at Pokemon Go Launch,” nextgov.com, Dec. 8, 2019
27.Evan Dashevsky, “18 Completely Inappropriate Places to Play Pokemon Go,” pcmag.com, July 26, 2016
28.Tita Smith, “Pokémon Go Player Who Was Hunting for Pikachu Is Knifed in the Neck after He Refused to Give a Stranger $5 and a Cigarette,” msn.com, Feb. 12, 2020
29.Libor Jany, “Pokémon Go Player, Pregnant Woman Victims of Minneapolis Weekend Shootings, Police Say,” startribune.com, Nov. 19, 2018
30.Jez Hemming, “Pokemon Go Player Punched and Kicked in ‘Nasty, Cowardly’ Street Attack,” dailypost.co.uk, July 23, 2019
31.Michael McDevitt, “A Vigil for a Friend Follows Second Rogers Park Murder in Two Days,” loyolaphoenix.com, Oct. 2, 2018
32.Mariel Padilla, “Woman Playing Pokémon Go Is Killed after Witnessing Robbery, Police Say,” nytimes.com Oct. 22, 2019
33.Statista, "Global Pokémon Go Downloads Worldwide From 3rd Quarter 2016 to 2nd Quarter 2023," statista.com, Aug. 7, 2023
34.Pokémon Go Live, "Tadbulb Makes Its Illuminating Debut during the Festival of Lights!," pokemongolive.com, Oct. 25, 2023
35.Sports Illustrated, "Pokémon Go Festival of Lights 2023: All Timed Research Tasks," videogames.si.com, Nov. 7, 2023