Pokemon Go: More than Just a Game


By Mike Howie

When people think of video games, they probably imagine sitting in front of a TV, controller in hand, moving nothing but thumbs and fingers for hours on end. Or perhaps lounging about with a smartphone, swiping and tapping toward a new high score. That’s mostly the case. But the viral hit “Pokemon Go” is changing the way we think about video games.

When the mobile game launched in early July it was an instant hit. For kids it was another way to play a game and enjoy a world that’s been around for a lifetime, while for some older players it was a dose of nostalgia, transporting them to the 90s when Pokemon originally gripped the world with cartoons, card games, video games, and a burning desire to catch ‘em all.

Real World, Virtual Monsters

What sets “Pokemon Go” apart is how much it makes you physically move, and that’s what inspired instructor Steven Bird at the University of Idaho to include it in the curriculum for his physical education class, “Pop Culture Games.”

The game uses the GPS in your mobile device to transport you to a virtual, Pokemon-filled version of the real world. A mall may become a Pokemon gym, where you can train your Pokemon in battle and win control of the gym for your team. A gas station may become a Pokestop, where you can stock up on pokeballs, potions and lures. And everything in between is the tall grass, where you can search far and wide for wild Pokemon to catch.

Be the Very Best, Like No One Ever Was

Moving between the different in-game locations requires you to move about in the real world, and Bird — along with a number of players who noted their sore legs on Twitter — quickly noticed how much exercise the game can get out of its players. But it wasn’t just the physical elements of the game that caught Bird’s attention — he’s also interested in the power dynamic the game introduces by prompting players to join one of three teams and coordinate their efforts to gain control of local gyms.

Playing “Pokemon Go” helps you to hone your leadership, teamwork and ethics skills by forcing you to work with other players, leading many to adopt a collaborative mindset: you teach me and I’ll teach you.

The world of video games is evolving, and it’s becoming more educational than you might think.


  • What other games, besides sports, prompt players to be up and active?
  • What other fun ways are there to incorporate physical activity into a daily routine?


  • Ethics 
  • Curriculum 
  • Collaborate