Scoping Review of Pokémon Go: Comprehensive Assessment of Augmented Reality for Physical Activity Change

Tom Baranowski, Elizabeth J. Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Pokémon Go™ (PG) is a mobile videogame that requires real-world walking to "catch" augmented reality (AR) virtual creatures. Media attention speculated that extensive physical activity (PA) could result from PG play, which could have public health benefit. Little is known about contextual factors related to PG play and how they may impact play initiation or duration. A systematic search of articles reporting the words PG was conducted with PubMed and Google Scholar. To understand the many possible influences on and outcomes of PG play, a scoping review was conducted by employing a conceptual model to organize the literature. Although large numbers of people started playing PG, these were a relatively small proportion of the relevant populations, but PG may have activated some of those most in need of PA. Diverse factors predicted who initiated PG play, but they tended to emphasize anticipated fun, escapism, nostalgia, social ties, and desire for PA. Environmental factors (e.g., unavailable GPS signals, trespassing laws) limited PG play for some. Diverse factors predicted duration of gameplay, but fun appeared to be prominent. The level of increases in PA from PG among youth and young adults appeared to be small or undetected, and of a relatively short duration (<2 months). Among older adults, however, there were modest increases in PA for up to 7 months post-release. This intensity and duration of increased PA appears to be inadequate to stem the epidemic of obesity but may have mental and social health benefits. Although many adverse outcomes from playing PG were reported, these appear to be low incidence, which should primarily influence PG players to knowingly exercise caution. Many research issues were identified to specify who might play AR games and effective strategies to enhance game design to increase PA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-84
Number of pages14
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Augmented reality
  • Games
  • Physical activity
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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