Pokémon Goes on

Monday, July 25, 2016
by Cameron Shelley

Pokémon Go is hard to avoid.  Players wander the highways and byways, and the halls of academe, collecting Squirtles and the like.  

Like any broadly adopted technological phenomenon, the game comes with trade-offs, that is, features that work to the advantage of some and disadvantage of others.  As ever, opinions may differ about what exactly those are.

For example, players may enjoy the game inappropriately.  At a recent US State Department press conference, spokesman John Kirby seemed miffed when he noted a reporter who was clearly more absorbed with the pastime than the briefing.

Some netizens are having fun setting recordings of Pokémon play to voiceovers from naturalist David Attenborough.  Attenborough, known for his breathless presentation during nature shows, makes a perfect host for game play.

It is interesting to contemplate the analogy between natural ecosystems and the virtual one presented by the game.

It may not surprise you to lean that Oliver Stone considers Pokémon Go to be a secret government surveillance plot:

You'll see a new form of, frankly, a robot society, where they will know how you want to behave and they will make the mock-up that matches how you behave and feed you. It's what they call totalitarianism.

I, for one, welcome our new overlord Pikachu!  

Although Pokémon Go may be a surveillance bonanza for the man, it is not filling the coffers of Nintendo, the originator of the Pokémon franchise.  Nintendo's stock prices surged as the game was introduced but recently dropped back to earth as investors discovered that the company does not actually make the app.  The correction wiped out over $6 billion in value.

In its defense, Nintendo never claimed to originate the game.  However, the association is so deeply entrenched that it took some time before eager investors checked out their initial reactions.

Pokémon Go has apparently had a transformative effect on young Ralphie Koppelman.  The 6-year-old autistic boy has had trouble relating to other people, such as making eye contact.  However, his love of the game has changed that in some ways, his mother has noted:

After catching some Pokéman at a bakery, the boy ran outside where another boy saw what he was doing and a connection was made. The two even high-fived over the game. 

Later on that night, Ralphie even chatted with his neighbor Jenny Lando about the game. When she informed him that there were more Pokémon for the taking at the playground, he begged his mother to go visit ― unusual for the boy since his routine doesn’t include going to the playground at night. While there, he further surprised his parents by hunting Pokémon with other kids and interacting with adults, who offered him some advice on the game. 

This tale makes for an interesting contrast with that of the reporter noted above.

Like many technological phenomena, Pokémon Go giveth and taketh away. It is interesting to think about who the trade-offs are affecting and in what ways.