Another dot in the blogosphere?

#PokémonGo lenses

Posted on: August 12, 2016

No, this reflection is not about the Niantic CEO’s wish to have contact lenses that augment what we see with virtual monsters.

This is about the selective vision that some people, particular the non-players of the game, have of Pokémon Go.

A TODAYonline reporter tried to get a variety of views from the crowds on both sides of the fence. That reporter and his editor seemed to have a checklist of people to quote:

  • Progressive owner of building that happens to be a Pokémon site
  • Business owner enjoying a windfall
  • Effusive gamer reliving the good old game in new form
  • Effusive gamer experiencing Pokémon for the first time
  • Addicted player spilling the beans
  • Neutral observer saying “better than being cooped up at home”
  • Someone official saying “be safe, not sorry”
  • Perhaps an expert saying “find a balance”

The articles almost write themselves off such templates. But no article should go without at least one brickbat complaining about phone zombies, crowds, noise, litter, etc. For example:

A Facebook user named Jantzen Lee complained of the litter, such as bottles and cigarette butts, left behind by players hunting down Pokemon at Hougang Avenue 10. “Please be considerate … You wouldn’t like it if you are a resident who (has to) wake up to a mess (in) your neighbourhood every morning,” Mr Lee said.

These are the various lenses through which we might view Pokémon Go. While there is none better than the one from a gamer’s point of view, what serves clicks, grabs eyeballs, and gets tongues wagging are complaints. Negativity sells.

Positivity rarely does. I wrote earlier about how Pokémon Go has helped kids with special needs. Someone has even created and shared a Google Sheet for Individual Values (IVs, or hidden statistics).

People playing responsibly is also boring. It is almost as if some illegal betting syndicate has the odds on the next Pokémon Go player to:

  • Drive into/drive off/fall off/fall into something
  • Get robbed/molested/robbed and molested
  • Find a dead body
  • Become a dead body

I was at the Chinese Gardens on National Day and there were hundreds thronging Poké stops. In one sweet spot where my son and I stopped, I estimated about 200 gamers enjoying themselves without causing a nuisance. My wife remarked how litter was packed into rubbish bins instead of strewn all over (and no, there were no cleaners working at that time of night).

All this is not to say that we should view Pokémon Go only through rose-tinted glasses. The game is based on technology that is pushing boundaries of what is possible and acceptable. All paradigm-shifting tools and instruments do this.

Just think about how the Internet has spawned enabling technologies and processes that make life, work, and learning so much richer: Watching videos, transferring money, collaborating synchronously or asynchronously on projects, making classroom walls more transparent.

When viewed through a simultaneously wide and telephoto lens, the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go is a normal blip in the human radar. There is nothing really to get alarmed about.

Unless that blip is the silhouette of a Mewtwo. Then we should get really excited.

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