The Pokemon GO app was an extremely popular game in 2016. Apart from its widespread adoption, researchers were interested in its health benefits- especially physical activity. The researchers wanted to know if the app 1.) significantly increased physical activity, and 2.) the factors that influenced people to play and be active. Learning about these factors could inform the design of other “exergames” and encourage people to be physically active.
For the study, they asked people why they played, and came up with the following categories:
- Pokemon and video game fan (were already a fan of the game)
- Curious and social (wanted to play the game with, meet friends)
- Physical activity (play for health benefits)
Then the participants got an accelerometer and EMA app so the researchers could get more accurate, real time data about play. The EMA app asked about the following three times per day for seven days:
- If they had played before the prompt. If so,
- Where they played
- Who they played with
- Distance traveled to playing site
- Playing environment
- Steps on accelerometer
In the end, they found that people who were motivated by physical activity logged the most steps.
The different groups also differed on the following dimensions:
- Fan Players: Played because of Pokemon aspect. The game was targeted at undergraduates who would have been fans of Pokemon at a young age.
- Social & Curious Players: This group wanted to play the game as a way to spend time with friends and explore the area.
- Physical Activity Players: These players were interested in the fitness aspect of the game. Most joined 100 days after players for the previous reasons.
- Fan Players: Enjoyed Pokemon and playing with friends.
- Social & Curious: Enjoyed social aspect, and getting to know the city better. This group reported in increased awareness of surroundigns.
- Physical Activity Players: Enjoyed catching Pokemon and playing with friends.
- Fan Players: This group demonstrated at 15.37% step increase in steps during play.
- Social & Curious: Demonstrated a 10.71%
- Activity: Demonstrated a 34.76% increase.
All groups showed a 11.05% step increase on the day as a whole for playing days. And, all groups reported that play improved mood.
Exploring exergames like Pokemon GO can be helpful for designing other exergames and maximizing the benefits of the technology. EMA was helpful because it gathered in-the-moment data that yielded more accurate insights.