Pokémon Go has created a sheer frenzy, with Niantic and The Pokémon Company happily watching as people wander around town catching fantastic critters, myself being one of those wanderers. However, you might want to understand what's really driving the craziness before you get totally sucked in.

You're driven by fear...

Both the millennial generation and Generation Z--the Pokémon Go target markets--are highly aware of others' activities. Subsequently, they're experiencing what psychologists refer to as fear of missing out (FOMO). They're desperately afraid that something important will pass them by, so you might be checking out Pokémon Go just to make sure your enjoy-life-o'-meter readings stay high. The FOMO amplifier is the media continuing to sensationalize the phenomenon and serves as a constant reminder. 

Related to FOMO is the fear of being an outsider. Being "out of the pack" means you'll miss out on many of the positives that come with inclusion. By getting involved with Pokémon Go, you send others the message that you're "one of them", simultaneously reassuring yourself that the odds of rejection just got a little lower.

. . . and the desire to feel relaxed and happy

Technology has the ability to stimulate the reward centers of the brain. Performing a small task-- e.g., finally catching that sneaky Pokémon--sends dopamine through the limbic system, making you happy. Be wary, though: Repeat the process enough and you actually can become physically addicted to the game.

Unlike the bulk of today's games and jobs, Pokémon Go requires you to get off your duff and move. The added physical activity can help a host of physical functions, including the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters. You might crave another jaunt to a Poké stop because those chemicals are elevating and stabilizing your mood.

A mirror neuron is a brain cell that fires not only when you do something, but when you see someone else doing it. When you're chasing Pokémon and people are laughing and smiling around you, the mirror neurons in your brain that relate to laughing and smiling fire, too, stimulating the release of hormones like oxytocin that make you feel connected.

What to capture from it all

Pokémon Go might seem like just a fun little app, but it has pretty profound connections to your body, psychology and brain. Those links undoubtedly are contributing to the viral status of the game to some degree. They're not necessarily harmful and even can allow Pokémon Go to benefit you, but they're worth keeping in mind as you try to understand your desire for and keep a handle on your game play.

Published on: Jul 14, 2016