Expert warns: Pokemon Go may pose risk for addiction and dangerous behavior
Fun as it may be, Pokemon Go is raising concerns about addition and dangerous behavior. Dr. Gregory Jantz stopped by our studio to talk about a column he wrote on the topic. In it, he calls the game “problematic”.
Pokémon Go – Augmented or Altered Reality?
Author: Dr. Gregory Jantz
An Internet take-over created the word “viral,” which used to refer to organic diseases but now to how snippets of digital flotsam proliferate rapidly. (Example: Gangnam Style; climbing inexorably closer to three billion views.[i]) The new game, Pokémon Go[ii], appears set to alter the meaning of “reality.” Reality used to be a black-and-white proposition. Technology brought us the concept of virtual-reality, which wasn’t so much “your reality” or “my reality,” as the reality of a nameless, third-party programmer. Now, Pokémon Go has introduced another reality – augmented-reality.
Everyone remember Pokémon? Cute little cartoon characters, called Pokémon, of which there are “722 known fictional species,”[iii] that human players catch and train to fight each other. In the Pokémon world (which comes under the heading of virtual-reality), there are videos, games, animated television shows, cards, movies, toys – you name it. That world just expanded, with the introduction of Pokémon Go.
“To break it down to its simplest description, Pokémon Go uses your mobile phone’s satellite GPS systems and built-in clock to figure out where and when you are when the game is open. When you’ve got the game open, the game then populates the world around you with Pokémon. You end up looking at the world through your phone’s screen and camera, and the Pokémon are dropped onto the top of the real world in a semi-convincing way – this is augmented reality.”[iv]
Since Go’s arrival on the scene a few short days ago, stories about it – and playing it – have gone viral. Released first in the US, Australia and New Zealand,[v] the response has been huge, spreading speculation of a delayed launch in Canada, due to overloaded servers.[vi] The rest of the world isn’t happy at having to wait its turn to experience this AR phenomenon.
I understand one of the main selling points is that Go encourages people to get out. “The gimmick is that thanks to the GPS and augmented reality, the Pokémon available to you change based on your real-world location and the time of day, so players are encouraged to move around.”[vii] Move around—in the real-world—while still interacting within an augmented one. Using Smart phones today but how long before Hololens’s go viral? (Hololens’s, I’ve learned, are headsets that overlay augmented, digital, content onto actual visual reality.[viii])
So, how does AR work in real-life? Well, in the game, certain real-world sites are designated as “gyms,” where humans can go to train their Pokémons for battle. Human, Boon Sheridan, found this out the hard way. Boon Sheridan’s family home used to be a church. Unbeknownst to Boon, the game designated the Sheridan home as a “gym.” Since the release of the game, people have been showing up in droves to Boon’s real-world house/AR gym, blocking his driveway, sitting in cars on their phones. Boon Sheridan appears to be taking this in stride. “He posted a picture of meeting with the man who in the game ‘owns the gym’: A tweet suggesting that we now live in a world where places can have multiple owners as there are multiple ‘realities.’”[ix]
Multiple realities can be problematic. The Holocaust Museum in New York has objected to being designated by the game as a “Pokestop” where humans go to obtain free stuff and has asked “Pokémon Go addicts to stop playing there.” [x] The real-world site of Auschwitz[xi] in Poland has asked the game to remove its location from play, out of respect for the dead. In what alternate universe would people playing a cartoon game show up at the Holocaust Museum looking for free game stuff? Apparently, not in an alternate universe so much as in an augmented reality.
Perception is a valuable commodity in my business of counseling. My job is already difficult, helping people to see, understand and maneuver through reality. I think my job just got harder.