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POKÉMONGERS

August 29, 2016

Within two days of its release, Pokémon Go had been installed on 5.16 percent of Android phones in the United States It became the most downloaded app in Apple’s App Store within a week and started draining our time and our batteries.

I recognize the enormous potential of Virtual Reality. I love the idea that “You can take a class of fifth-graders across the world without needing permission slips,” But, my fundamental question remains: “Why is it so bad IRL that we have to augment it?” Why can’t we as a society seek to experience all of the physical beauty and connection in the world before we experience it virtually? Why do we in fact, prefer to experience it remotely?

 

(Ok, I don’t want to admit that we prefer it because we can manipulate, enhance, and project the image of a “perfect” life.)

 

So why don’t we just focus on making our lives look like the life we are so busy projecting? I would need to dedicate all remaining blog posts to this fundamental behavioral question, so I will narrow the inquiry: Why are so many people choosing to waste valuable hours playing Pokémon Go? (Apparently, someone else is asking the same question)

Answer #1:

“In virtual reality, I became an active participant in an environment completely removed from reality…virtual reality blocks out the rest of the world in a way that…immerses us wholly in the experience.”

Answer #2:

Pokémon Go is turning a traditionally sedentary pastime into an active one. Again, fine, but walking around like a zombie, staring at a screen doesn’t exactly quality as “activity” in my book. And what about the real dangers of being in the real world, but being preoccupied in an imaginary one? “It pushes you out in the real world where the dangers you face aren’t just cars but also how vulnerable our society at large makes you to violence.”

 

Answer #3:

Pokémon Go will have an enormous impact on the future of software and entertainment. Granted, but like anything else, it can be put to good use or it can have a detrimental effect on behavior.

 

It seems to me that we lose perspective on what’s important in reality when we focus solely on virtual reality. This happens because we are addicted to the effects of the reward centers of our brains. I venture to guess we will see video game addiction no different from heroin addiction in the very near future.

 

Gene Rodenberry, possibly the greatest behaviorist since Shakespeare, foresaw the negative impact technology would have on society.

 

In the 1991 Star Trek episode, “The Game”, Rodenberry predicted a device eerily similar to Google Glass. The Game was psychologically addicting, rendering anyone who played it incapacitated by stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain. Players fell into a catatonic state and when successfully completing each level, so the creators of “the Game” could control humanity and take over the Universe. Sound familiar?

Jonathan Frakes as Commander Will Riker in “The Game”.

 

“Amidst all the plasma guns and power-ups, it can be easy to overlook the fact that videogames are inherently metaphysical exercises…Intentionally or not, games contain implicit messages about purpose, free will, the afterlife.”

 

The NYT Bestseller, Reality Is Broken, argues that we should engineer our world to be more like a videogame, incorporating its system of rewards and escalating challenges to help us find meaning and accomplishment in our lives. 

 

I’d argue that we should pay more attention in the real world to identify intrinsic rewards and see them as meaningful accomplishments in the lives we have.

 

 

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