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.