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Why I Don't Like Pokémon GO (Virtual Reality and the like)

Why I Don't Like Pokémon GO

Odds are you are already offended, but let me start by saying that I am merely expressing why I personally don’t like the concept of Pokémon GO (and things like it).  I am not saying that I think it is sinful, stupid or otherwise sinister.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t like it.  I do feel, as I will argue, that my reasoning is valid, meaningful, consistent and ultimately applicable.  If you feel differently, I sincerely hope you catch ‘em all, but I will not be joining you.  Here’s why.

Delineation

There’s a time and place for everything.  Well, maybe not everything, but certainly there is a time and place for gaming.  Games are great!  They are both fun and challenging.  They help build confidence, camaraderie, competitive spirits and a bit of self-actualization as well.  These are all good things as far as they go.  Even non-athletic games (like video games) work the mind and improve the ability to map things out in your head.  I am not anti-gaming.  I do, however, think that there is a time and place, and always/everywhere is not it.

Gaming, like almost everything, is best utilized when it is appropriately compartmentalized.  (Note the word appropriately.)  Work should be appropriately distinct from home life.  The escape through reading should be distinguished from real life.  Hobbies should be a part of life, not the whole thing.

I contend that Pokémon GO, Virtual Reality (even 3D movies to an extent) attempt to not only blur the line between Game and Life, Digital and Real (Two Dimensions and Three) but completely remove the delineation all together.

Definition

I chose the term delineation as opposed to demarcation for a very intentional reason.  I am as obstreperous as the next guy.  If someone told me that games don’t belong in this part of life I would balk.  I would mentally respond, “Who are you to say where and when I game!?”  That is what demarcation insinuates; it sets the boundaries.

Delineation on the other hand doesn’t set the boundaries, it traces it.  Imagine a map and think of your state on that map.  Can you delineate your state from those around it?  Do you know where your state ends and the others begin?  Great, you’ve delineated.  You didn’t set any boundaries, you’ve just been able to recognize where they are.

The same is true with Gaming.  I should not dictate to you or anyone else (except my kids) when or where to play Monopoly, but you should be able to know when you are and are not playing Monopoly, and it’s socially beneficial for others to be able to tell as well.

Validity

If my above argumentation is going to be taken seriously, it has to be valid.  It was to actually be true in regard to (say) Pokémon GO.  So, let us ask the question, “Does Pokémon GO blur/remove its own delineation?”  Perhaps it is most fair to let Niantic answer that.  Below are excerpts from the Pokémon website.

Travel between the real world and the virtual world of Pokémon with Pokémon GO … With Pokémon GO, you’ll discover Pokémon in a whole new world—your own! Pokémon GO is built on Niantic’s Real World Gaming Platform and will use real locations to encourage players to search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon.

… 

The Pokémon video game series has used real-world locations … for the fantasy settings in which its games take place. In Pokémon GO, the real world will be the setting!

… 

As you move around, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you're near a Pokémon … Also look for PokéStops located at interesting places, such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments, where you can collect more Poké Balls and other items.

The word real is used six times in three paragraphs to describe a game.  There is (as of yet) no physical boundaries, no chronological game clock, no pause button or end in site.  To play as the game is intended, you play everywhere and always.  This at minimum removes delineation and (it could be argued) might effectively remove demarcation as well.

Meaningfulness

It seems the claim is valid.  Pokémon GO, Virtual Reality and the like seek to make it hard (if not impossible) to delineate between this and that.  But, who cares?  What is the big deal?  Is the demise of delineation meaningful enough to not like a mobile game?

That is a fair question, and it is difficult to answer it well.  This is one of those arguments that you really have to think through logically.  It is not fair to say (for instance) that Pokémon GO is dangerous because people do dangerous things while playing it.  However, there could come a point in which a game is inherently dangerous.

The same care should be taken when arguing against the integration of mobile gaming.  Is it inherently undesirable or do people just happen to use it undesirably?

I believe that, when it comes to gaming, removing delineation is not good for the individual, the society or for general safety.  I do not want to spend too much time arguing the finer points here for fear it will distract from the major point, but I will say that being able to mentally distinguish (even stop) playing around is a good thing for an individual.  Physical cues to indicate activity and engagement are good for society.  Respect of personal, private, prohibited and dangerous areas is for good general safety.

Again, one must question if the above good is violated by individuals or by the concept of the game?  I would argue that the intentions of the game (as we have already seen) are to always engage people in the game (it's the only way to know Pokémon are near) through their mobile device (which removes social cues because we do everything on our phones these days) and to be everywhere (with no regard to restricted or dangerous areas).

One cannot blame a game because its users act foolishly, but it seems clear that the game has not been mindful of these inherent issues that pose real problems.

Consistency

The argument seems valid and meaningful, but is it consistent?  Is it the case that I simply don’t like Pokémon and have come up with some excuse for it?  A very fair question.  I admit that I didn’t like Pokémon GO from the beginning, but I couldn’t figure out why.  It was actually the virtue of consistency that helped me realize it.

I went to school with a girl—we’ll call her Autumn—who constantly had her nose in a book.  She read in class.  She read at lunch.  She read while walking down the hall.  I am a big fan of reading, and I think there are enormous benefits, but you’ve got to know when and where to pull yourself out of a book and get in reality.

My wife is obsessed with social media.  (I originally put Facebook but she insisted that she was on Instagram and Pinterest just as much.)  Social networking is the first thing she does in the morning, the last thing she does at night, and she might spend more time looking at her phone than at any other thing in her life.  I am not opposed to Social Media, but they shouldn’t consume your life.

My sons play Minecraft.  They speak of it ad nauseum.  I don’t prohibit Minecraft, but I do limit their play of it.

Surely there are things that should permeate our lives, but (quite simply and evidently) Pokémon GO is not one of them.

Application

An argument can be valid, meaningful and consistent while still not being worthwhile.  Why?  Because it has to work in real life.  You have to be able to apply it—to live it out.  In other words, it has to comply with our real world experiences.  So, is it applicable to say that a game or a technology should not be integrated with life itself?  Is it applicable to say that we should be able to delineate between real and not, game and not, play and not?

The answer is (again, simply and evidently) yes.  Here in mid July of 2016 one might find this a bitter pill to swallow.  How can life go on without my team having control of my favorite gym?

To answer this, I would simply refer the individual to June of 2016 before the game was released.  You can live life knowing where one things ends and the other begins.  You can even live life completely without such a game, technology or otherwise.

Objections

The reader might be thinking through certain objects and has likely settled the following: “It’s just a game.”

Indeed it is!  Well argued, but that’s kinda my point.  If you can (not just say but) play like it’s a game and just a game than we will likely not have issues.  It should be noted, however, that is not they way they want you to play.

Conclusion

In conclusion I don’t like Pokémon GO, Virtual Reality and the like because they remove the delineation between themselves and the rest of life.  They do so intentionally, and that’s a problem for many reasons.  This may not be a blanket concern for all areas of life, but it does cover most of them, and it is reasonable and wise to live life with that in mind.

Gaming is great, but it should be a distinguishable part of life.  As it becomes difficult to see the difference between game and not game, my approval diminishes.  Decide for yourself, but consider the implications of losing delineation.