You don’t have to be a millennial to realize that Pokémon Go is taking over the planet. The new app has found a way to connect our daily lives, activities, and routines within the fictional world of Pokémon. These “pocket monsters” known as Pokémon displayed in the real world are at every corner, restaurant, and retailer you can imagine.
Users are tasked with collecting as many Pokémon as possible, similar to how the Nintendo Gameboy and DS work. Then why, you may ask, are people so addicted to the app? As a matter of fact, it comes down to a more fundamental question: Why do we love collecting things?
The main causes behind its popularity come from our desire to collect, show off, and prove our self worth. It is estimated that about one out of three people collect something…anything. There are two main types of collections: aesthetic and taxonomic.
The first, aesthetic occurs when objects are not in a limited supply. Therefore, adding more to your collection is based on personal preference. The latter, taxonomic, has more to do with the act of collecting, quantifiably naming and classifying things into groups. Pokémon is by no means a game of aesthetic collection but clearly taxonomic. At the end of the day, the theme song is “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”.
Collecting Pokémon is almost a never ending task. Although it can often end temporarily it tends to continue later on. The collection grows and grows until it reaches the maximum amount possible. At that point, what comes next? Most likely we will see the developers add new species and continue to grow the marketplace. As we have seen in the past, sequels have excessed 700 species of Pokemon.
But what are the players goals? Players don’t strive to complete their collection. Instead, they focus much more on expanding their collections to bigger and better. There is some level of social comparison implied at this point that recommends your collection is better than someone else’s.
New theories on the self go as far to suggest people have changed their evaluations of themselves to include the digital world. Examples of this include the collection of digital items, such as Pokémon or points and levels in other similar games.
Beyond our desire to collect and show off our collection. Another reason for the Pokémon app addiction comes from its augmentation of reality. The placement of digital monsters in real life makes their discovery a search that goes beyond the brain.
Stepping out into the world to find these creatures provides “thrill for the hunt”. Just as people escape reality to find avoid personal issues and difficulties with drugs and substances people similarly join the world of Pokemon.
Can you really be addicted to Pokémon? Right now, it appears that while the game has taken over the world, people aren’t quite addicted yet. Addiction requires a level of hijacking to occur in the brain reward pathways.
It is extremely possible for a video game to trigger this outcome if a person becomes so infatuated that their use is harmful to themselves. The use would mimic a psychological addiction which reinforces the strength of neural circuits and has a completely chemical effect. Currently, Pokemon addiction remains more of the exception rather than the rule.