Back in the days before cell phones were in every pocket, we played outside. We worked up a sweat riding bikes through the neighborhood, often pretending to be racecar drivers, or pilots, or any number of things our imaginations could think up. And when the streetlights came on, we raced home for dinner, excited about doing it all over again, tomorrow.
When cell phones became common, we began to use them for communication, and for children who are still learning to communicate with confidence, it can actually be a barrier to this very important life skill. Despite the positives these games can provide for people with verbal communication challenges, games released on every mobile platform, while multiplayer, remove the very human aspect of communication, and the physical interaction most child development experts agree, is important in bridging the gap from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence into adulthood.
Enter the newest gaming craze “Pokemon Go.”
After only a short while, we already see people crowded around specific sign-posts, parking lots and playgrounds. Cell-phones and backup batteries in tow, they bump into one another, sometimes literally, and begin a conversation around a mutual interest. In effect, this video game is encouraging physical, in-person communication — and, it’s fun! This is a great example of finding a niche, or need and filling it. But there’s another facet to this success that others seem to be overlooking.
While at the stoplight, by my office, I watched a group of young, athletic children huddled around one of those “commemorative road signs” that mark important places and times in history. A group of kids that weren’t nearly as athletic arrived and rather than be excluded, they were welcomed, and a few handshakes were exchanged in friendship. One of the children was clearly on the autism spectrum and rather than being forced to the edge of the group, he was in the center, talking more than anyone, and to an audience who was listening!
So, what is the lesson to be learned?
Unlike other games where you are rewarded by putting your opponents down by beating up their planes, tanks, troops or any number of other avatars, “Pokemon Go” is inclusive. Certainly, each player is trying to be “the best”, but they’re forming teams and doing it, together. Last night, in my neighborhood, I watched packs of children riding bikes, walking in groups, running and playing “tag” from one Pokemon stop to the next, and laughing. One group comprised of most of my neighbors kids started early on Saturday, came in for lunch and had worked up such a sweat while playing, they had to change clothes before resuming their playing in the afternoon.
But it’s more than just anecdotal evidence that shows us the power of inclusion. Players, themselves are reporting odd side effects of euphoria, lowered social anxiety and inexplicable laughter. One such article attributes it to the effect of activity (psychcentral.com). While exercise is absolutely paramount to mental and emotional well-being, other attempts at engaging players in physical activity have all failed, more or less, to accomplish that goal.
So when you plan your next idea, your next promotion or your next business offering, consider whether or not it’s inclusive, or exclusionary. While there is value in making something exclusive and VIP, if your goal is to fill a niche with as wide a reach as possible, or you want your product or service to be marketed by the end-user, interactivity and inclusion should be at the top of your strategic needs list.