PokeLOVE: a “Pikachu” in connection to others
Sorry, but the pun was right there just waiting to be used!
Reminds me of some pretty infamous Pokemon pick-up lines I’ve heard over the years too:
“You put the “Wiggle” in Wigglytuff…Wynaut go out with me?…You just weedled your way into my heart…Looking at your ass makes my bulba soar…I’d love to get a better Pikachu.”
Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
Unless you’ve been completely off the grid (and if you have, good for you! That can be healthy.), your social media feed has likely been filled with your kids, friends, neighbors, and maybe even lover trying out the new Pokémon Go app.
It’s become a global phenomenon in a way I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted other than the amped up nerds at Nintendo. Over seven million downloads of the app as of yesterday (07/11/16) helped Nintendo stock soar some $7.5 billion!
Many are scratching their heads at some of the bizarre behavior they’ve seen in people they once thought they knew. And the powers that be are asking if we have reason to be alarmed.
- Couple in Australia kayak over 30 minutes to get rare gym in a fountain.
- Man captures a Pidgey while his wife’s in labor.
- Teen girl in Wyoming finds dead body instead of Pokemon.
- Police in MO report armed robbers using Pokemon Go beacons to lure targets.
Pokemon and Lovers
Being a couples therapist, I’m intrigued by cultural trends and their effects on relationships. As technology has advanced, so has the rise in unhappy partners bickering over its use.
Gaming used to be stereotypically equated to adolescent teen boys. Now I have partners, regardless of gender, well into their 30’s, 40’s and beyond complaining they feel replaced by pixels. What gives?
Video Games & the Brain
Humans are hard wired to do whatever feels good. Our brains have what neuroscientists call the “reward pathway” – it’s our pleasure center.
So whether we’re enjoying a satisfying meal, romp in the hay, or chasing Pokeballs (ha! it really never gets old!), we literally get high on dopamine and other happy neurotransmitters.
Put very simply, the decision making center of the brain (prefrontal cortex) becomes affected by this rush of euphoria as does the amygdala which can be thought of as your emotion center, and all the while your hippocampus or memory center is taking notes.
And the gaming industry uses psychology and capitalizes on biology to keep us coming back for more. Pretty smart, eh?!
Games like Pokemon Go incorporate operant conditioning techniques like positive and negative reinforcement. Hello RPG’s and achievement levels being unlocked!
And if you like it when I talk nerdy to you, watch this:
So is my partner an “addict”??
While the psychological world hasn’t come to an agreement yet about many compulsive behavioral issues including sex, gambling, and yes video games, we are scrambling to keep up with the times and produce compelling research to better inform treatment plans in therapy.
The DSM-5 (2013) proposes Internet Gaming Disorder be considered for further study and thus possible labeling in the next edition. We can argue about the art and science of diagnosis later ;).
For now, the focus is on the APA’s suggestion that we look for “symptoms” in individuals like a significant decrease in everyday functioning perhaps because:
- he/she has lost interest in other hobbies
- or maybe he/she has jeopardized or even lost a relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gaming habits…you know like the guy who supposedly wouldn’t get on a train this week because of a rare Pokemon and his chick left him behind??
Benefits of Gaming on Relationships
I promise it’s not all bad! In fact, as therapists, we use technology all the time as tools for improving our clients lives. Research has shown gaming can increase critical thinking skills, dexterity, response time, provide education and build awareness of desired subjects, and more.
Relevant to my area of expertise – mating behaviors, the internet has allowed many of my clients with social anxiety to practice being vulnerable and assertive in baby steps that are more manageable.
And nerds the world over are now united in glorious fandom fantasy with the touch of a button! Sometimes this even blossoms into real life friendships and romantic relationships.
My favorite part of the Pokemon Go saga are all the stories of unification across all demographics flooding the news, and what perfect timing after so many recent tragic events?
It’s also given people reason to get out in nature, further combating things like depression, anxiety, low physical energy etc.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan.
Tips to keep it HOT
Play safe. Keep your eyes on the road and don’t respond to creeper ads.
Agree on amount of use.
Maybe give it a shot together.
Make it a competition if you’re into that sort of a thing.
Enjoy the us-against-the-world thing.
If you’re really cheeky, cosplay and talk nerdy in the bedroom. 😉
Tamara Powell, LMHC is the owner of Arya Therapy Services, a Pensacola counseling and coaching practice. She works with clients across the globe to make their lives as satisfying and red hot in all areas of life. Her nerdy side includes Star Trek and Star Wars among other 80’s and 90’s trends. If you’re interested in learning more about her and her services, feel free to connect at email@example.com.