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Location-based mobile gaming and local depression trends: a study of Pokémon Go

Cheng, Aaron ORCID: 0000-0002-2070-3761, Greenwood, Brad N. and Pavlou, Paul A. (2022) Location-based mobile gaming and local depression trends: a study of Pokémon Go. Journal of Management Information Systems, 39 (1). 68 - 101. ISSN 0742-1222

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Identification Number: 10.1080/07421222.2021.2023407


Emerging literature has begun to investigate the role of technology in public health. Yet, a minimal amount is understood about whether, how, and why digital games, notably mobile games, might affect mental health, particularly depression. In this work, we examine the effect of location-based mobile gaming on local depression trends. We measure population-level depression using a well-established mechanism from the medical and public health literature, internet search of depression-related terms. We argue that the introduction of Pokémon Go, a mobile game that encourages outdoor physical activity, face-to-face socialization, and exposure to nature, may alleviate non-clinical forms of mild depression for users playing the game. To identify the effect, we employ a difference-in-differences approach to exploit the staggered release of Pokémon Go into 166 regions in 12 English-speaking countries. We empirically document a disproportionate decrease in depression-related search in those regions where users are able to play Pokémon Go. This finding lends credence to anecdotal claims that location-based mobile games may alleviate symptoms of depression of their users, underscoring the mental health opportunities of location-based mobile gaming and creating new opportunities for information systems research.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2022 15:33
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 22:54

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