When the mind moves freely, the body follows: exergame design, evaluation, and the curious case of Pokémon GO

Kathleen Yin, Matthew Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exergames, video games that mediate physical exercise, have been used
with demonstrable success to improve physical fitness. However, the
health impact that exergames can achieve is not restricted to increasing the
amount of players’ physical activity. These games have been used in other
aspects of healthcare, such as cognitive training and mood-improvement,
and may reduce the burden of treatment experienced by patients. To
measure such parameters, researchers require different kinds of
methodologies that can assess the subjective perceptions of patients and
take into account the social relatedness, autonomy, and sense of
competence offered by good exergames. This article provides an overview
of the health benefits of exergames that have been measured to date,
the methods by which the data on these benefits has been obtained, and
the design principles that maximize the self-motivation that serious games
can evoke from their players. We provide an analysis on the factors that
propelled Pokémon GO (Niantic, 2016a) into becoming one of the most
successful exergames in recent memory and the apparent decline of
interest towards the game. By assessing the lessons learned from Pokémon
GO, as an example of successful exergame design, and by developing
innovative and comprehensive methodologies for evaluating effects, this
paper suggests how exergames more broadly may better serve the holistic
health benefits of players at a large scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-65
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Games, Self, and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright iThrive Games Foundation and ETC Press 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Games
  • Education and outreach
  • Mental health


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