Since Pokemon Go‘s launch in July last year, the Augmented Reality phenomenon has been downloaded over 750 million times and made more than $1.5 billion. That’s not a typo. While more than 80 per cent of players (myself included) haven’t opened the app in months, 60 million people are still playing today.
That’s a lot of people getting out and about, increasing their physical activity, getting fitter. But does the gamification of exercise actually work? Short answer: yeah, it does.
In a three months randomised trial, followed by another three months of observation, researchers aimed to find out if the gamification does anything to increase the activity levels of families, specifically.
The trial measured how many steps people took every day over the six month period. Some individuals and families in the trial (there were 200 adults from 94 families in total) could earn points and “level up”. The others didn’t have any points or levels attributed to their daily movements. In a result that will leave every gamer on the planet thoroughly unsurprised, those who were incentivised ended up taking more steps.
The enthusiasm wore off after the initial 12 weeks, though. Sounds familiar, huh?
The good news is, the results of the gamified group still ended up better than those of the control group, even long after the trial was over.
“Our findings suggest that gamification may offer a promising approach to change health behaviors if designed using insights from behavioral economics to enhance social incentives,” said Dr Mitesh S Patel of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Maybe it’s time to dust off our Pokemon Go app, then. I hear the latest updates are actually pretty good.