Pokémon Go is the first big augmented reality hit. It also challenges our understanding of what augmented reality means. While it has AR modes for catching as well as battling pokémon, it feels like an augmentation of reality even when these modes are disabled.
Pokémon Go in large part is a game overlaid on top of a maps application. Maps apps, in turn, are an augmentation overlaid on top of our physical world that track our position inside of the digital representation of streets and roads. More than anything else, it is the fully successful cartography referred to George Luis Borges’s story On Exactitude in Science, prominently referred to in Baudrillard’s monograph Simulacra and Simulation.
Pokémon Go’s digital world is also the world’s largest game world. Games like Fallout 4 and Grand Theft Auto V boast of worlds that encompass 40 sq miles and 50 sq miles, respectively. Pokémon Go’s world, on the other hand, is co-extensive with the mapped world (or the known world, as we once called it). It has a scale of one kilometer to one kilometer.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game even when we have AR turned off. Players share the same geographic space we do but live, simultaneously, in a different world revealed to them through their portable devices. It makes the real world more interesting – so much so that the sedentary will participate in exercise while the normally cautious will risk sunburn and heatstroke in post-climate change summers around the world in order to participate in an alternative reality. In other words, it shapes behavior by creating new goals. It creates new fiscal economies in the process.
Which is all a way of saying that Pokémon Go does what marketing has always wanted to do. It generates a desire for things that, up to a month ago, did not exist.
A desire for things which, literally, do not exist today.
What more fitting moniker to describe a desire for something that does not exist than Pokémonography. Here are some pics from my personal collection.