Pokémon GO: Reality Through a Screen
Pokémon GO is THE new game…and in fact the most popular mobile game in US history. Through a scavenger hunt, players explore the world around them; every time a player is near a Poké species, his/her phone vibrates. The goal is to catch as many Poké species as you can (there are over one hundred).
It’s interesting that the most popular cell phone game is one that incorporates a fantasy world – one we’ve played in for years on other devices – into our real world through a technological function called augmented reality. Augmented reality is exactly what it sounds like: enhancing reality for different purposes, whether it be for a game (like Pokémon GO), testing out hairstyles, or trying on tattoos. With augmented reality, imagination becomes a part of visible reality.
This game is fun and addictive; but what is its larger effect on us? Some argue that the game is truly a positive development since it brings people outside; players are more inclined to be adventurous and explore their cities with friends rather than sit at home alone and watch TV; it makes real life more exciting. However, others twist this argument on its head. Yes, the game encourages adventure, but it also further glues us to our phones. If the “better” reality is seen through our phones, then why would we settle for (more boring) real life? Thus, although we are physically outside, we see through our phones rather than with our eyes, potentially isolating us more. With Pokémon GO, we miss spontaneous eye contact with random people or a shooting star in the sky. Additionally, since it’s a city-based app, it places greater importance on the larger metropolitan areas and ignores more rural settings. So, like most things, the game has its benefits and its downsides. It asks us to actually get up and “GO” on an outdoor scavenger hunt, but it makes the mobile world more exciting than the real one.
What does the game suggest for the role of augmented reality in our future? Well, it’s clearly had a strong impression on us. From the top App Store ranking to stampedes in Central Park, Pokémon GO has proven augmented reality’s power in harnessing both the real and technological worlds. The function could mean that we will be able truly visualize our imagination to show friends. But it might also isolate us more from others. We already have access to almost everything without leaving home; now we have access to a cooler, enhanced entire world through a cell phone. Yes, cool now; but potentially detrimental later.
And with our eyes even further glued to our screens, we have a higher chance of digital eye strain (computer vision syndrome). Not only do we now use our phones while sitting down, but we also use them while exploring outside to see a new world. Fatigued, tired eyes will only become more so; it may take longer to fall asleep. Better to prevent computer vision syndrome now before it becomes completely unmanageable!