Chasing Pokémon, a Baby Step Toward VR

Posted July 22nd 2016


via The New York Times

I read an email from Michael Saler, the author of “As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality” and an expert on the augmented life that technology companies are creating for us.

He was guardedly optimistic. “Pokémon Go is making everything new again,” he said. “It’s not just the enticement of the hunt, but coming across other people doing the same thing. These apps are going from pure fantasy games to helping us appreciate reality a bit more. It shows that nature and fantasy aren’t opposites, that they can come together.”

Mr. Saler added: “We always think of these innovations as a new heaven on Earth or the ninth level of hell. But it’s never one or the other, there are always disadvantages and advantages.”

Actually, reading over the voluminous online commentary about Pokémon Go, I saw little criticism beyond some privacy concerns. Denunciations about the infantilizing of American culture? Not found. The triumph of pop culture is so complete no one even notices it anymore.

Instead, there was widespread enthusiasm for getting people outdoors by any means possible. People on our trek agreed this was little short of a miracle. “If you had told me a week ago I should go outside, I would have said, What?” said Anton, a programmer who declined to give his last name. He said he now played Pokémon Go for hours at a time, running in parks to collect the animals.

That’s one way to look at it. Another, of course, is that the game tethers people even more firmly to their devices in the one place they used to be able to at least partly escape from them: outdoors.