I love video games. I’m an avid gamer. As a child I fell in love with flash games on my dial-up connection and I spent countless hours on games like Halo and Half-Life. I recently have taken up replaying Sid Meier’s Civilization V and Dishonored and my all time favourites include games like Bastion, Thomas Was Alone, and Grim Fandango.
This is my medium and I will defend it from misrepresentation and the ignorant media pundits who claim that games rot minds and cause violence. (Really? The Talos Principle causes violence? Dark Echo causes violence? No – violence comes from disengaged communities breeding misguided children whether they have video games or not. At least specify a title, but I digress).
However, loving this medium, I also want to call it out when it makes mistakes, and Pokemon Go is a major step backwards.
Here’s the crux of the problem: the line between reality and fiction. Fiction is a powerful and useful tool. When we step into the magic circle, we gain fresh eyes to see our world. We can reinterpret our surroundings, better understand the implications of our actions, and explore human nature and condition in ways we couldn’t otherwise, by adapting our actions or ideas to new circumstances. Then when you step back into the real world, you have a chance to live a better life.
Or what about the simple delight of a novel experience? Dark Echo didn’t make me rethink human nature, but it gave me the chance to experience raw senses in a way I couldn’t before. But is that experience sustainable? Even if it were, even if I could simulate shooting lines from my hands by clapping, wouldn’t this experience just distract me from the things in life that matter?
The value of fiction depends on the sanctity of its borders. We take what we learn in fiction and carry it into our IRL works, but if our tactic towards the real world is to filter it, not improve it but to create artificial perceptions of it, then what have we gained? Fruitless escapism.
“You’re just pontificating a slippery slope. Pokemon Go isn’t that bad.” You’re partly right. Pokemon Go isn’t necessarily a drug, but it can be. And this technology has the potential to become worse. And even if it’s not entirely evil, is this the best way to use what we’ve been built? What we’ve been given? Do you want to be a slave to your game, having your real demands distracted by the Squirtle by the river? What does that do to your relationships, your job?
Here’s a further problem: asymmetrical experiences of life. This isn’t as much of a problem, but it can’t possibly foster unity in the human race to have some experiencing a reality filtered with pokemon and others not. (What would happen if we combined this with Sesame Credit?)
And if these abstract philosophical problems aren’t enough for you, people have already gotten hurt. People have caused car accidents. I’m sure conversations have been interrupted and that hurts relationships.
My life has been improved by video games more than I care to describe here. The same is true of books. I can say similar things of movies and plays, but the benefit of those experience can only be affected in the real world and if the real world is compromised all we’re left with is vapid escapism and lots of trespassing.
“But… but it’s fun.” Car accidents are fun? Well don’t get me involved. And if you’re going to leave our conversation for a Psyduck, don’t expect me to be there when you get back.
I also considered “Pokemon Stop.”
Much Later Edit: A friend of mine mentioned that this kind of game has the potential to give those with social anxieties a means to interact with others. While I don’t think this completely washes over the game’s problems, it does go to show that Pokemon Go is not completely evil. And I don’t intend to say that it’s completely evil. Only that it’s a step in the wrong direction. I don’t expect Pokemon Go to ruin the world.