Sunday, July 31, 2016

Why is Pokemon Go! so Freakin' Cosmopolitan?

While appreciate the way that games like Ingress and Pokemon Go! encourage people to get out of their homes, away from their game consoles, into the streets... I also find it profoundly disturbing how cosmopolitan this phenomenon is. Of course, I understand - Pokemon Go is based on Ingress, which relies on this concept of XM which is based on population density and high foot traffic areas, so while Google Maps provides a uniform service to all parts of the globe, based on satellite orbit patterns, games based on the Google Maps API provide much better service in cities. Period. You want to catch them all? Go to Santa Monica. I love these games, but I find them disturbing for two reasons:

  1. It goes against canon. The Pokemon storyline goes something like this: Pokemon Trainer Ash explores the continent, making friends and having adventures, learning to triumph over various gym leaders; he succeeds in finding the rarest pokemons in the most obscure places. In the augmented reality game, you need to breed to succeed, and battling gyms is a secondary concern. To get the rarest pokemons, you need to incubate and hatch 10 km eggs, and go to the densest nests. These are high traffic areas. Like Ingress, I'm sure there will be events that will provide access to extremely rare pokemons, and I am entirely sure these will happen in dense, high population, high technology areas.
  2. This is not how ubiquitous access works, at least not for everyone. Imagine you discover you have an odd rash - perhaps you suspect you have Lyme disease, and you have done some preliminary investigation on various public health websites. This is a huge concern. Treatment for Lyme disease should happen ASAP. If you live in a cosmopolitan area, your first concern may be finding a clinic or emergency department that has short wait lines; whereas, if you are in the country, telehealth may be a better option. You may email a doctor a photo of the rash. If you are in an LMIC country or remote region, you may not have easy access to healthcare. Ubiquitous access and a mobile phone may be your only way to get an effective, fast diagnosis and treatment. 
I live in a large cosmopolitan area, surrounded by water, and still, I only have to travel 10 kilometers out of range for the poke-details to dry up. That doesn't seem right. While I understand that this is an augmented reality, it also strikes me that this is a highly one-sided and cosmopolitan view of my reality. This is another Music for Airports, a distraction which encourages city-dwellers to develop good exercise habits and occupy their own event horizons; easy to enjoy, easy to tune out; profound with breadth but not with depth. I suspect that this will, however, result in longer battery life, cheaper secondary batteries. This will drive the industry forward.

No comments: