Get ready, because it’s coming soon. The newly created genre of augmented reality gaming is about to take over our phones, thanks to the success Pokémon GO, and the timing couldn’t be better. With the issue of excessive force by police juxtaposed against the racial tensions in our country, we are becoming more and more divided. Technology at our fingertips has allowed us to spout opinions; unfiltered by the effort of having to actually find a computer to post them. The anonymity offered by the internet allows us to say things and share opinions we would never have the guts to say in person, or possibly don’t even truly believe. It’s no wonder the nation is captivated by the prospect of living in an augmented reality.
I can’t justify or pretend to understand the appeal of the game itself, but I understand the mentality behind it. I’ve downloaded it (for research purposes). You walk around and collect little monsters to battle against other players. The reviews say that the game is full of bugs that need to be fixed immediately and that the app itself doesn’t even work that well. (I didn’t play long enough to find out.) Yet, its set records within days of its release and generates more than a million dollars a day. The price has been set by the American consumer to escape the world we’ve created and it’s only going to go up.
People don’t want to live in this reality anymore and they are willing to pay to escape. The online gaming industry is estimated to be a space worth more than $2 billion in the U.S. alone. Now, this isn’t necessarily an unhealthy thing. It can be a stress relief for some casual gamers and playing video games has been shown to stimulate certain cognitive functions. The problem, as we see it, is the seemingly direct recent correlation recently with social discontent and the popularity of games like Pokémon GO. It’s easier than ever to bury your nose in your phone and pretend like the rest of the world does not exist. This pacifism is the leading catalyst for the recent phenomenon of Pokémon.
It is so much easier to walk around your neighborhood looking for a Charmander (a specific Pokémon) than to face the reality of the upcoming election or take a stance on the Black Lives Matter movement. Why would anyone want to get involved in that when you can live in an augmented reality where your biggest problem is running out of Pokéballs? While the rest of the world argues and divides itself further, one can live in a world that they’ve created for themselves and have total control over. It sounds quite nice, really. There’s just one problem. These issues, these problems creating a divide in our society, are not going away no matter how many Pokémon are caught or how many pieces of candy you can match together. Your phone battery only has so much life and people have to come up for air eventually. The more people miss going on in the real world, living in their created one; the more they are shocked with what they find when they look up, then the greater the motivation to charge up and download their next reality. The rest of us are left to pick up the pieces of this increasingly fractured society.