The mobility laws of location-based games

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Mobility is a fundamental characteristic of human society that shapes various aspects of our everyday interactions. This pervasiveness of mobility makes it paramount to understand factors that govern human movement and how it varies across individuals. Currently, factors governing variations in personal mobility are understudied with existing research focusing on explaining the aggregate behaviour of individuals. Indeed, empirical studies have shown that the aggregate behaviour of individuals follows a truncated Lévy-flight model, but little understanding exists of the laws that govern intra-individual variations in mobility resulting from transportation choices, social interactions, and exogenous factors such as location-based mobile applications. Understanding these variations is essential for improving our collective understanding of human mobility, and the factors governing it. In this article, we study the mobility laws of location-based gaming—an emerging and increasingly popular exogenous factor influencing personal mobility. We analyse the mobility changes considering the popular PokémonGO application as a representative example of location-based games and study two datasets with different reporting granularity, one captured through location-based social media, and the other through smartphone application logging. Our analysis shows that location-based games, such as PokémonGO, increase mobility—in line with previous findings—but the characteristics governing mobility remain consistent with a truncated Lévy-flight model and that the increase can be explained by a larger number of short-hops, i.e., individuals explore their local neighborhoods more thoroughly instead of actively visiting new areas. Our results thus suggest that intra-individual variations resulting from location-based gaming can be captured by re-parameterization of existing mobility models.