Game design, physiological triggers and behavioral research.

Pokemon GO had a huge impact and popularity all over the world. Everyone played it! 10 years old kids, fans of the original old games and even the businessman in suit was seen in the wild catching .

The promise of Pokémon in the “real” world and that each and every one of us finally can be a Pokémon Trainer is a dream that began in the 90’s. But the popularity of Pokémon GO may not resonate or appear logical to onlookers. It has been both described as weird and as a craze.

Why did Pokémon GO blown-up in popularity? Why is it so addictive? And why was the internet and the media going crazy with Pokémon GO?

Here I’m going to explore the mobile game Pokémon GO from a Game design and physiological point of view.

Sounds interesting? Then read on friend!

What is that?

We start with a concept of the ‘Random Rewards’ system. This surprises the player when completing certain tasks in the game and that triggers the reward system in our brains. It’s exciting to not know what the next Pokémon you see could be. A lot of Pokémon GO is about making the brain feel special for feeling lucky. It’s about finding a rare Pokémon or getting a special Pokémon from an egg that you have spent time and effort into for it to hatch, revealing a random Pokémon. If the player gets a rare Pokémon, the brain gives a boost of the “feel happy” chemical Dopamine.

Uncertainty makes the process and effort put in to get the reward feel more exciting, and we care about the process more then the result. This is used to make a task that’s a little bit “boring”, such as taking a walk, and making that effort rewarding with some uncertainty-generated excitement.

Pokémon GO does this a lot since the game is all about walking outside, exploring and randomly finding Pokémon throughout the neighborhood. You can’t be sure what new cool Pokémon you might run into.

Uncertainty creates more positive, exciting experiences. We get excited by the unknown.

Pokémon eggs are obtained by going to Pokémon stops and then hatched by walking a certain distant. 1km, 5km or 10km to get different random Pokémon’s. After the effort of walking a certain distance the Pokémon egg hatches! The effort we put in boosts the rewards value. This means that if you already knew what Pokémon you were going to get, you would not put the same effort. If you knew that the Pokémon egg would hatch another Pidgey (a very common Pokémon), you would probably not hatch that egg.

Uncertainty of what Pokémon might be found when exploring is more powerful than certainty in boosting motivation towards the goal, making us work harder and enjoy it more in the process.

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