Could the mass adoption of interactive 'augmented reality' games be the key to achieving sizable public health gains?
The recent rise of Pokemon Go raises the question. Pokémon Go’s format holds promise as a scaffold to long-term health behavior change. Firstly, it doesn’t tout itself as an exercise app—it’s a game, to be enjoyed in and of itself. Because the game is intrinsically rewarding, people aren’t paying attention to how far they walk—they’re distracted by the lure of a rare Pokémon that might be just around the corner.
People also aren’t bogged down by the connotative baggage of the word “exercise.” For many, exercise is a four-letter word for an unpleasant and repetitive movement performed because the doctor says so or to achieve an unrealistic standard of beauty. Extrinsic motivation—or motivation for external rewards—is less effective than intrinsic motivation—doing something for its own sake. When we do something because we want to, we persist longer, feel better about ourselves, and are more engaged with the process.
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