Augmented reality mobile game Pokemon Go has sparked many controversies since its launch in 2016. From reckless behaviours like accessing restricted areas just to “catch ‘em all”, to traffic accidents resulting from playing while driving, to crimes like stabbing incidents and robberies, it seems like Pokemon Go is nothing but trouble. This is, however, not the case for Tommy Monkhouse, a student at University of Greenwich in London who lost more than 60kg in a year from playing Pokemon Go.
If you “want to be the very best” and to become a Pokemon master, it is only natural that you complete the Pokedex by catching all of the available Pokemon — there are more than 500 kinds currently. In order to do that, Pokemon Go players have to be active and go out into the real world to hunt and catch them. Apart from that, walking helps to hatch Pokemon eggs which give players various Pokemon depending on the event and egg types. Walking distances of up to 50km in a week will also reward players with in-game items like Pokeballs and potions.
When Tommy first started playing Pokemon Go, what supposedly should have been a 30-minute walk unknowingly became a three-hour walk as he was so engrossed in playing the game. Tommy recalled his thoughts at that time, “If I can do this in three hours, what’s going to happen over, say, a week, a month, a year?”
This became a turning point for Tommy, who weighed around 158kg at his heaviest. He started setting little targets for himself, aiming to lose a certain amount of weight, walk a certain amount of kilometres within a certain period of time. “Over a year, I watched myself go from this extremely huge person who wasn’t happy with his life, who wasn’t happy in who he was. By the end of a year, I’d lost ten stones (around 63 kg), I was confident, I was smiling,” Tommy said in the video from Niantic, who developed Pokemon Go.
Apparently, other than losing weight, Tommy also built lasting friendships through the game’s Community Day. It is a time-limited event with increased spawns of a particular Pokemon, and increased chances of getting a rare, “shiny” version — usually of the same form but different colour.
“My favourite moment from Community Day is the first proper Community Day I turned up to. I ended up becoming essentially best friends with Max and my boss and several other people from the group… Now, those friendships are lifelong and we couldn’t imagine our lives without each other,” said Tommy.
While Pokemon Go has generated some negative news, we still cannot ignore the positive sides it has. For Tommy’s journey in Pokemon Go, he “went from not being happy to feeling very alone to feeling happy” with himself, eventually becoming “physically strong, physically better”. “It’s an incredible thing to say, ‘I did it.’” he says.