By Christine Kern, contributing writer
One hospital is using Pokémon Go to get kids moving towards recovery.
Pokémon Go, a free game (iOS and Android devices), features a familiar Nintendo character concocted more than 25 years ago by a Japanese video-game designer with a childhood love of collecting insects. Now, Pokémon Go takes the game outside, with players attempting to catch Pokémon, or pocket monsters, in the real world. Niantic Labs, the game’s maker and spinoff of Google parent company Alphabet, uses augmented reality to make Pokémon trackable (and visible) through a smartphone’s GPS and back-facing camera.
Pokémon Go has become the latest sensation, with players showing up all over public spaces in search of the elusive characters. It has gotten many people moving and exploring, perhaps for the first time ever.
Now, several children’s hospitals across the country are using the game to encourage their patients to get up and go. The Huffington Post reported C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI is using the game to encourage young patients to get moving towards recovery through exercise and socialization with other young patients.
“It’s a fun way to encourage patients to be mobile,” J.J Bouchard, digital media manager and certified child life specialist at C.S. Mott, told USA Today. “This app is getting patients out of beds and moving around.”
The game also helps encourage kids to engage with their physical therapy. “If I’m trying to get a kid to raise his arms up or squat down, I can say, ‘Hey [that Pokémon is] a little bit lower, can you reach down and get him?’” Bouchard told University of Michigan Health System. “And that’s just a really tricky way that physical therapy or occupational therapy can get a kid to do the exercises that he was screaming and crying about five minutes ago.”
Phoenix Children’s Hospital is also finding the game useful for its patients. According to KXXV, the app is helping children like 10-year-old Noah Esquivel, who has spent the majority of the summer in the hospital. Noah explained, “The Pokémon Go really helps too because it distracts me, it gets my mind off the things that like, tense up in my head,” said Esquivel, who is recovering after having brain surgery to treat his epilepsy. “When we got to the hospital we saw there were PokeStops all over the place and so we were like, ‘Oh, this is really cool.’”
Of course, not every hospital is finding the new activity a delight. Some have registered complaints because the game attracts people who are not patients to the facilities and compromises patients’ safety.