University of Idaho students to get class credit for playing "Pokemon Go"

Posted at 10:38 AM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 12:38:29-04

This fall, University of Idaho students will wander campus gathering Pokeballs and searching for Pikachu, Jigglypuff and Snorlax -— and some of them will be doing it for credit.

A new physical activity class, called Pop Culture Games, will teach students about leading active lifestyles, building teamwork and exploring their communities through games like the megahit smart-phone app Pokemon Go and the live-action game “Humans vs. Zombies.”

“I want it to be more than people going, ‘I’m going to go catch a Pikachu,’” said course instructor Steven Bird, a graduate student in UI’s Adult, Organizational Learning and Leadership program and staff member in the UI College of Education’s Department of Movement Sciences. “This app does more than let you shoot a Pokeball. You get to adventure around, seeing different things, being active, seeing the sun. It allows you to move in large groups and a team. You get not only physical activity, but you also get team-building and leadership.”

Bird has been preparing the course for a while, but knew he had to add “Pokemon Go” when it became an overnight phenomenon. The game’s clever technology and nostalgic content encourages people who might normally shy away from organized exercise to get outside, get moving and meet other players, he said.

In addition to chasing Pokemon, students taking the class also will help organize the campus “Humans vs. Zombie” club’s annual competition, which combines elements of tag, hide-and-seek and other games for a massive, multiplayer event that lasts for days.

The goal is to give students a fun, creative class that teaches them skills to take with them far beyond an afternoon searching for Charmander or throwing Nerf balls at “zombies” on the Administration Building Lawn -— skills like leadership, ethics, safety and respect, said Philip Scruggs, chair of the Department of Movement Sciences.

“We are hoping to capture the interest in Pokemon Go and other active games and draw the link with a healthy, active lifestyle,” Scruggs said. “It’s a great way to engage youth through adults, and a great way to engage families in active games together. Our interest is to turn folks onto an active lifestyle, and that can be achieved in endless ways.”