Within the past two weeks, the United States has been faced with a series of unfortunate events that have deeply impacted all facets of our nation. The nation is mourning and reacting over many lives lost in all communities due to violence. In light of these most recent events, I observe my community and worry how hard it must be to process everything going on in the world. Even I find myself questioning human behavior and how we define positive change. We try to talk, we try to reform, and yet there is still violence.
As I observe and honestly worry about the students at my home institution, I wonder how can I be there for them? How can I understand their pain? And then it dawned on me — sometimes the best way I can support them is by standing by their side and walking to the nearest Poké Stop together.
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game that was released last month. Pokémon Go has had an immediate impact on human behavior and mental health on campus. Here are five ways Pokémon Go can be an advocate on your home campus and help support your community wellness:
The game requires you to go outside and be active.
The majority of Pokémon Go requires you, as a trainer, to be active. You have to get outside and walk around to find new and exciting Pokémon, Poké Stops, and Gyms. It can be challenging enough to get outside after a long day of lab work with little life on campus. Many of the summer residents on campus honestly just want to climb back into their oyster shell after a long day and stay inside their residential building. However, this game encourages a healthy lifestyle. Resident trainers have developed a routine and, in a sense, a cardiovascular plan. In order to level up, you have to get outside and walk; so far all I see are power ups for student wellness.
The game builds community.
I have over thirty residential students that are in a group chat together and meet up almost every night to go outside and explore this platform. While outside, they are building friendships, connecting with the local community, and networking with local business owners. Students have also mentioned they feel safer on and off campus because they play this game in such a large group setting. Pokémon Go is helping transform the community into becoming a positive and inclusive environment.
Students feel more safe and have stronger situational awareness.
The student population and campus community have found a common interest that unites them. Let’s be real here, they play this game quite late into the evening. Students have learned how to support and look out for each other. This game involves a high level of situational awareness based on location and potential environmental threats. You could find yourself in the middle of the street catching a Pikachu or heading towards a lake in hopes of a Gyrados. Together, students have learned how to adjust and adapt to their environment in order to continue playing this game.
We can relate, understand, and grow together.
One of my proudest moments in the early development of this game was to learn that Campus Safety plays Pokémon Go at my home institution and, in turn, builds a stronger relationship with the student population. Human behavior is complex and sometimes we really just do not know how to work through the high grass where these events grow. Sometimes we need to just take a step back and allow ourselves to play a game like Pokémon Go with our students. The violence is not going to stop today but we can take a step forward in student support by sharing this interest to help relate, understand, and grow with our students.
Get off campus, take a walk with one of your students, and learn about Pokémon Go. It is incredibly fun and I guarantee you might just see the benefit and overall positive change it can have within your campus community.