The Pokémon GO craze took the world by storm, where young adults to the elderly themselves became more glued to their digital mobile phones than ever before.
Pokémon GO is a mobile phone game application created based on the Japanese anime with the same name: “Pokémon”. This popular animated series featured characters that were on an adventure to catch the most powerful Pokémon (where ‘poke’ means pocket and ‘mon’ stands for monsters i.e. ‘pocket monsters’).
This allowed people to feel like the characters themselves or at least fictional hunters, as the game allowed them to create their own character avatars, use a steady internet connection, GPS and digital maps on their phones, no matter where they were in the world, to show them where they can catch the nearest Pokémon and even where to battle with other players at power-stations using all their collected Pokémon. It also allowed players to upgrade their collected Pokémon to make them more powerful, know the characteristics of each one, such as habitat, powers, etc.
But besides being such a virtual reality sort of game, it enabled people to walk around more and even get to know their surroundings better than they probably ever did, stimulating them both mentally and physically.
However, these seemingly little benefits got researchers rather curious about its deeper advantages…
“The Pokémon Study”
The researchers of the University of California explained that Pokémon GO actually teaches us how the brain works.
The aim of this study was to see if stored long-term memories could add or expand the small window of capacity that our short-term memory or the working brain memory functions have. Our short-term memories need to last only for a short period of time because only the vital and immediately needed information are kept there for easy access until they are used or are not of current value anymore. But Pokémon GO seemed to alter that straight-forward function. 1
The researchers started by using the characters from the Pokémon card and video games to see if there was a link between a person’s short-term and long-term memories, after which, they conducted a simple memory test using Pokémon characters.
In the experiment, the candidates who were mostly college students were showed Pokémon characters from the game’s “first-generation” as well as more recent Pokémon characters which appear in the Pokémon GO game.
When the candidates were asked for details about what they were shown, those who had a decent level of familiarity were able to remember the first-generation Pokémon characters much better than the recent-generation of Pokémon characters. Likewise, those who were more recently introduced were familiar with the recent generation of Pokémon more than the earlier ones.
This Memory & Cognition study showed that those who were well-versed with the Pokémon characters from the show created in the 1990s had that memory stored in their long-term memory. Therefore, they were able to remember more details about the Pokémon characters when this game came out or when they were tested for their Pokémon character familiarity.
What basically occurred was that their short-term memory tapped into the archived resources of their long-term memory to help them recall what they needed to.
What Your Brains Show On Pokémon Go!
The outcomes showed that the short-term and long-term memories both boosted each other in a fascinating way when a person dabbles with games or stimuli using various characters like Pokémon.
For example, when reading a book or watching a show, do you notice how your brain tends to remember the various characters in the story better as you visually familiarize yourself with it? Essentially, Pokémon GO works the same way as you familiarize yourself with the various characters; your brain expands your visual short-term memory to remember more.
The researchers claimed that ‘familiarity’ with any subject is so powerful as it is enough to tap into any stored information in our brains and bring it back to short-term memory.
A statement released by the researchers said that the tests showed that a person who has a decent level of familiarity to a topic makes them more likely to expand their brain’s capacity to learn and gather more information associated to that very topic.
Psychology professor, Weiwei Zhang, who was also a researcher in the study, said that it was a stunning example of why “practice makes perfect.”
Taking The Pokémon Findings To School
Digging a little deeper than just playing Pokémon GO, the findings also suggested applying this technique in a classroom setting. Students who were studying or preparing for their CAT or SAT examinations, could use such visual familiarity techniques to grasp more concepts required for their assessments so they can perform better. They basically get to train and expand their working memory to have better recall using visual stimuli from their text books, instead of blatantly memorizing what they need to know.