Pokemon and Augmented Reality: Seeing our world for what it is
It’s an age-old tradition for the parents of one generation to lament that their children don’t play like their own generation did. Gone are the days of the yoyo and the stick sword, for technology has ushered in a controversial new era of play. Mothers of yore concerned themselves with preventing their children from hurling themselves upon the various sharp objects that can be found outdoors, while mothers of today fight to get their children outdoors in the first place. That was, of course, true until Pokemon Go, a new app offered on Androids, smartphones, and iPhones, came out in the last month. Pokemon Go remodels that cherished childhood game of the Millennials and gives it a fresh coat of paint in the form of augmented reality. Augmented reality uses the “smartphone’s camera, GPS, and position sensors” to overlay the player’s real world with Pokemon characters and other elements of the game . While many are obsessed with the new game, others are quick to point out the problems— namely that formerly respectable adults are walking into trees, revolving doors, and oncoming traffic for the sake of catching a Psyduck. To those critics, however, it should be pointed out that people have been getting into accidents because of their phones since the invention of the technology. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
While it may seem to some that Pokemon Go is just another mindless activity that is gluing people to their screens, there is much more to the story. First of all, while a screen is involved, players are encouraged to walk considerable distances in the open air by one of the game’s rules— Pokemon eggs only hatch after the player has walked between one and six miles depending on the egg. People like Nick Johnson— the first person to catch all of the Pokemon— and Sam Clark— another man who caught all 143 Pokemon— are even touting Pokemon Go’s role in helping them lose eight and twenty eight pounds respectively.
While many virtual reality games are by nature intended to take a person away from their surroundings, Pokemon Go’s unique Poke stop feature is designed to help people appreciate their surroundings. Players can go to designated Poke stops to collect poke balls, eggs, and other items, but they find much more than that. The Poke stops are specifically chosen by creators to help players engage with important landmarks of their real world that are easily ignored. Players looking for eggs at a Poke stop may find themselves in a historical monument, may encounter a new part of their town that had gone unnoticed theretofore, or may even find their attention drawn to a new aspect of a familiar place. Playing off of this idea is Syrian artist and social activist, Khaled Akil. Akil has published several photographs that depict the distressing plight of war torn Syria with Pokemon characters cropped in. Khaled unapologetically brings us to the painful realization that, while it took the a shiny new app for some of us to look around and really get acquainted to our environment, this ignorance is a luxury that those in Syria are not granted.
How can we take advantage of the gift that we’ve been given? The chance to stop, and take in your surroundings unafraid? ( That is, of course, unless you, like some other unfortunate Pokémon goers have decided to haunt a park after hours and risk being the next victim of a Poké robbery). Say yes to learning—from your environment and from others. Nick Johnson asserts that he would not have been able to beat the game without the advice and assistance of complete strangers— other lone rangers embarking on their own noble quests. Pokémon go affords us the opportunity to meet and interact with those that are different from us, and interacting with those that are different from us is the best way to combat the ignorance of holding to preconceived notions.
PS. Don’t forget to check out the Poke Stop and Poke Gym at Trinity’s Market St location !