The Veil

The Veil
Pokemon Go

I gotta say: there has been no better prep for running The Veil than learning my way through Pokemon Go.

It’s my first augmented reality game and it’s super compelling. I won’t get into technical details of how it plays because I assume I’m the late one to the party. But what has jumped out at me about the experience:

My AR awareness of my physical surroundings is changing.
Okay, that is very weird and interesting and maybe the most exciting thing: my mind now “feels” where Pokestops and Pokegyms “are” in the real world. My neighborhood has a couple stops that I can walk to each morning. The neighborhood gym is on a busy street juuuust outside where I usually walk my dogs, and I’m now adapting my daily routine to incorporate a stop just in case there’s an easy critter in there to take down. Or at least to just get the free goodies for stopping in.

Whenever I’m in a new place of course I’ll also boot up just to take a look around. And then my brain can “feel” where the new ones are too!

Now imagine this phenomenon but the phone is in your eyes and other senses all the time and you’re never taking that extra step to boot up your game.

Everything is monetized.
The genius of Pokemon Go is that it gamifies and monetizes everything. Walking is measured. Not walking is measured. Visiting specific geographic points. Capturing specific critters. Hatching eggs by accumulating walking time. Accumulating coins by keeping critters in gyms. Buffing your best critters to sit in gyms longer to accumulate more coins to buy more balls to capture more critters to earn more XPs to level up to power up your critters to fight better in gyms to earn more coins and so on forever. It’s Poketurtles all the way down.

Now imagine having every aspect of your existence gamified, and how that might shape your life. Take a slightly different route and be exposed to slightly different people or advertising or shopping? Add new rituals to your daily life, where no single ritual is even noticeable but soon your whole life is shaped by these microtransactions?

And now imagine the phone is in your eyes and other senses all the time and you can’t unplug.

I’ve unwittingly joined a community.
I’m interacting with other players every day and I have no idea who they are. Why is my local gym infested by team blue today but now there’s just one monstrous team yellow thing squatting the gym? This is a half mile from my house and I have no idea what happened but I’m invested anyway. I’m bugging friends online for tips every day (sorry Kit La Touche). I’m building up a mastery of a virtual skill that exists only in a virtual world, which isn’t any different than any other game mastery except it’s driving me out of the house at regular intervals to visit specific locations and do arcane things once I get there.

Apparently you can team up, physically, to play certain parts of the game. My daughter and I play in parallel and that’s pretty fun. She also has run directly into glass doors and damn near drowned herself falling into our pool playing, too (yay Samsung’s water-resistant phones). And she’s interacting with these ghostly apparitions too! What have I signed my six year old up for?

In all these cases, I can’t help but extrapolate out to a not too distant future life where our devices aren’t on/off options and we have multiple concurrent games running at once, only in most cases we won’t call them or even recognize them as games. Gamified ads. Gamified search. Incentivized tweeting and commenting and rating and ranking and posting and photographing and filming.

What a nightmare.

0 thoughts on “The Veil”

  1. I play with my six year old too. Sympathy!

    Also, hells yeah it changes the way you perceive your world. Especially now that they’ve added quests (“research”) for another layer of gamification.

  2. Paul Czege oh no! She plays on my wife’s.

    I’m thinking about hooking her up with a bogus g+ account so she can play on a shitty old tablet I have laying around.

  3. PoGo on Kindle was a technical challenge I was not up for. I got Google Play installed but it won’t start and I don’t know why not. So she gets my oooold Xoom.

  4. Best advice on raids: google for Discord servers that connect the local raiding community. It makes meeting up WAY easier than just going somewhere and hoping others might show up. Also I’ve met a lot of really cool people locally that I’d otherwise not have met!

  5. Oh shit, I had no idea you were playing Pokemon Go now! Sarah and I are both hardcore addicts ourselves…

    I have tips available any time, and very much share your observations above.

  6. Despite all my gripes about multiple deletions I do have Poke-Go installed on an old iPhone that I can tether. My refusal to spend money on the app and the kids largely forgetting about it if I don’t mention it are main reasons it doesn’t get played.

  7. Daniel Lofton true story: playing with my kid has thus far cost me $10 in Pokecoins so I can buy more balls. Because she’s kind of a terrible shot and doesn’t use any discretion in what to hunt or not hunt.

    I’m already projecting a $10/week habit and it’s not good.

  8. Paul Beakley I intentionally wandered around downtown Fort Collins with my son to get some pokeballz. He immediately spent all 7 of them trying to catch one Pidgey. Kidz don’t know from good shots!

  9. Funnily enough, when we moved into our current house there was a neighbor with a playground that got tagged as a pokestop. Stayed that way for about a year. If I had been into then I could have drunk beer in a chair in my driveway and spun that sucker. Ah, the lament.

  10. Topher Gerkey yeah it was pretty rad when I got it. I’ve only evolved three things so far, with like 3 more on deck and then the loooong slog to the 100s.

  11. Topher Gerkey And almost always useless 🙂

    Anyway, it’s interesting about how it gamifies life, how it change your perception fof our surroundings, and I shoudl use such comparison whil GMing The Sprawl !

  12. If I started playing something like this, I would never get anything done. Much respect for the folks who can get the right level of obsessed with things!

  13. Last PoGo Community Day I went to our local hot spot and saw quite a few kids playing on tablets tethered to their parents’ phones. I’m also wondering if the larger screen would make it easier to not miss so many catches. Second the looking for Discord channels for your local community. That and/or FB. Locally a lot of raid groups use and app called GroupMe.

  14. Go has the advantage of a powerful IP married to an existing infrastructure (Go is built on Ingress, which was built on an earlier product, which was built on Google Maps). Nobody else is really placed to have that exact golden combination.

  15. Why wouldn’t Google/Niantic pull in additional IP to the existing setup though. Plenty of other IP out there to add to the ####Go continuum. MonsterHunterGo?

    Also plenty of other map/tracking companies out there who would be happy to gain cash flow on the maps they have created. MapQuest, Waze, YahooMaps etc.

  16. Waze is Google. I think MQ is…out of business now? I’m not sure. I think Trimble has its own geolocation stuff they resell for like construction companies and real estate stuff.

    It might even be that Google would let you scrape their map data for free! I’m not actually sure that that’s the main holdup. Believe me, I’ve been thinking on this topic nonstop since we started playing.

    But I look at PoGo and holy shit is there a lot going on. Not only in terms of game design but global experience. AR games don’t work, I think, if you constrain them to a specific country. And then look at the, gosh, hundreds (thousands) of critter designs and all the cross-marketing that goes with that. And the marketing toward non-playing entities to hook in, like how there’s a Pokestop at every Starbucks.

    Maybe, I guess, if someone had an absolutely jaw-dropping proof of concept they could pull a few mil in and hire up for all that ongoing programming, testing, marketing, art…it’s a big job.

    It also occurs to me that there’s a minimum critical mass of players to make it work. That’s true of all games but it seems extra true for a game model that relies so heavily on actual human interaction. So expect to lose a few mil in the first 18 months, yeah?

    Dunno. Maybe there really is a garage operation out there somewhere who’s figuring this stuff out.

  17. Micah Shaeffer for Niantic, it’s mostly because they were expecting an Ingress-level success with Pokemon Go, and instead it was several orders of magnitude more successful than that, and they’re basically still playing catch-up and getting around to implementing features that have been anticipated since launch (PVP battling and trading were featured in the very first pre-launch trailer and still aren’t in the game).

  18. Micah Shaeffer CAN YOU IMAGINE.

    I have no idea what you’d have to present to … Hasbro I guess? … to land that license. But I could totally imagine an Equestria overlay, with place to go do pony things while you level up your pony/pegasus/unicorn/alicorn. Sidekick critters, quests, spells, gosh yes.

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