Pokémon GO. It’s the app that’s taken the country by storm and sent masses of people running around trying to “catch ‘em all”. This had led to both some hilarious and Darwin-award worthy results. It’s also created a significant strain of haters, writing blogs and posts on various platforms strongly decrying this app as both stupid and dangerous. The fact is that there is an important discussion to be had here but all the hate against the hype is overshadowing it. The articles can be broken into two camps:

The first is a reaction to the game itself. Look. Pokémon GO is a game. It’s based on a ridiculous children’s show from the ‘90s and the subsequent craze that went along with it. The premise is simple- there are these creatures called Pokemon and you go around the fictional region as a “trainer” catching them. It’s not designed to be sophisticated.

So if you think it’s stupid- that’s fine. No one is claiming it’s anything other than a rather simple game. Those of us who enjoy playing it on our DS’s and other platforms do so because it’s fun and silly. Whether or not you enjoy it is a matter of your preference. there are plenty of popular games that I find to be ridiculous- Minecraft is one of them, Candy Crush another, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. It just means that it’s not my thing.

The second, however, is important because it’s a reaction to the app as the first widely used example of mobile Augmented Reality. For all of app’s warnings to stay aware of your surroundings the fact is that an AR app by it’s very nature nature requires us to be less aware. The information provided by an AR app is designed to supplement our surroundings and divide our attention from the physical reality. Other apps such as Blippar are working to become as widely used in the day-to-day. These apps present themselves as adding to our experience but they require that we look at the world through our phones.

As I wrote in a prior post, for an app to get widely used it has to be addictive. An addictive app (see Candy Crush) is one that we want to use all the time. So is it any wonder that these accidents are happening? While Candy Crush has led to some bizarre self-injuries , AR apps that encourage us to interact with our environment as we move raise the stakes considerably.

We need to talk about these negative consequences and put together a game-plan before it’s too late and other addiction AR apps arrive on the scene. Pokemon Go presents this opportunity but as long as you’re caught into the hate against the hype that’s what the conversation will center on. So let’s move on to the real conversation and leave people to hunt Charizard in peace.

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