Pokemon Go: Will the Onset of Augmented Reality Mean the End of Situational Awareness?

Since its release the Pokemon Go app has become a worldwide sensation, downloaded more than 100 million times. The app has not been without controversy however as players, unaware of their surroundings, have received numerous injuries, been robbed at gun point and even died. Critics of the app fear that the worst is yet to come.

Image source: Indianexpress.com

Image source: Indianexpress.com

Pokemon Go, a smartphone app that superimposes little digital characters over real world imaging, allowing users to physically track the location of Pokemon on a map, and then “catch them” with their smartphones has become the most popular augmented reality app of all time. As a result, many are predicting that its popularity will provoke a surge in the development of other augmented reality games readily available for download.

While it has been suggested by proponents of the app that Pokemon Go is beneficial as compared to regular smartphone or computer games as it encourages users to get out of the house and requires physical activity in tracking down the Pokemon, critics warn that augmented reality games could lead to addiction, a lack of situational awareness leading to injury and possibly death and the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

Will the increase in augmented reality games lead to a future completely divorced from reality and devoid of situational awareness? Watch the video below caused by a rare Pokemon being discovered in New York’s Central Park and let us know.


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  1. Looking a little more into augmented reality. Father.io is taking things beyond Pokemon GO with a first person shooter game. It’s a game again in reality with artificial / digital items placed on it. Users can choose between two teams and engage in battles with others. On the screen the gamer sees their surroundings and they can choose various types of guns, which show on the screen too. By playing battles, users gain experience points, can claim areas or overtake the other teams claimed area. Outside of battles users can harvest energy and points by engaging every so often.

    According to the developers of the hardware, these times of games are just the beginning and in the future other developers will be allowed to write games too. According to the makers Father.io will launch this autumn. Here’s a preview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUhUzUWOIug

    Now who hasn’t enjoyed playing a good game of laser tag and it gives you some good exercise. But I have to agree with Karim here that the constant engagement in entertainment and tech harms our overall perception/awareness of reality and reduces our attention span and focus. With our mind scattered and our emotions on a roller coaster, how is anyone able to perceive the more mystical side of life and perceive beyond the five senses?

    • The Father.io app is pretty full on. I can imagine the type of things happening to people with Pokemon Go will get worse and happen more frequently with a game like that as there is the added anxiety / excitement that will come along with it and get people more absorbed. I can see people running into other people / traffic / stationary objects etc. more and more frequently.

      It seems it could also be harmful in that you’re no longer “killing” video game characters, you’re hunting real people. I wonder what sort of crossover that would have to real life.

    • Thanks for sharing that Roy, I think 🙂 Watching that demo trailer gave me a really bad ‘taste in the mouth’, not sure if it was because of the increased likeliness of more of this stuff becoming popular in the future or merely the energy coming off of it thinking it’s cool with the added music etc.

      Not sure if this particular one took off, but I’m sure in the future these apps will develop more and more using the combination of technologies found in a phone.

      The name also seems a bit strange or profane to me. Putting that onto a game where you’re ‘shooting’ fellow humans.

      • As far as I know, the game supposed to go live in August but that date is delayed. I’ll be interesting to follow this one and see how well it is received by the public. By the looks of it, augmented reality gaming is in its early stages and developers are testing the waters. As such hardware is made available in different forms, I believe the boundaries between the real and the game world will fade slowly.

    • That’s a pretty disturbing preview. Even the name given to such an app, “Father”, is weird and distorted.

    • Totally have to agree there. Words of meaning and real importance are given a new connotation to what they actually mean. Imagine speaking about our spiritual father and returning to him, meanwhile those who have played the game wonder with their mind to the last battle they played in Father.io. The battle on consciousness seems to be on many fronts.

      • And then we also have a name of the mother – the name Isis – with a new disturbing connotation around terrorism and the real life targeting and killing of people.

  2. Looking back on my life and when computer games were introduced to me, it was fun at the time and I spend a lot of time in them. Now looking back I imagine what I could have learned about life, myself, or a skill that would have come handy if I dedicated all that time to that instead of chasing the next power up, or level in a superficial environment. The same goes for this new hype called Pokemon GO. Time can only be spend once, use it well.

    • I know what you mean. When I was younger I used to play video games for hours at a time, especially the Super Mario Bros. series until I finally realized the amount of time I was wasting staying indoors staring at a screen rather than doing necessary things such as homework, chores and getting a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air outside.

      But the Pokémon Go game takes people’s addiction for a virtual distraction to another level. Some of the things I’ve heard users tell me about why they like it: they are getting some form of exercise by taking their devices on walks outside and some believe it allows them to be more interactive with other people, mainly strangers, that they would not normally meet.

      Personally, I think it sets a dangerous precedent for people to regard it as a socially-acceptable form of entertainment for several reasons. I’ve seen how crazed some children can get trying to “catch” and collect as many Pokémon characters (short for “pocket monsters” that carry many different, eye-brow raising “attributes”) as they can. Aside from the number of reported injuries (accidents, falls, etc.) and incidents where several unconscientious people were being targeted by criminals, it’s an invasion of one’s privacy as it uses a mobile device’s GPS to track down a person’s activities while using the game (someone recently told me that they had awaken to suddenly find five virtual Pokémon creatures “floating” around in their bedroom).

      I find it interesting that the game’s concept and incentive is to make people “be more active in the real world”. I think it does quite the opposite: it’s a tool, in my opinion, that encourages people to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

    • The more I reflect on the time I spent as a games programmer, the more I am appalled at digital technology in general. For instance, when playing games, one of the most common problems that people face is that of sore eyes. In fact, I distinctly being told to ‘remember to blink’ in order to not have sore eyes myself — particularly when playing games.
      Of course, this is a problem that only exists in the digital world where the Mind is completely dominant. That it does so in such a way that it can override basic physiological functions, such as blinking, is amazing.

      However, when writing games:
      – I also simulated ‘passages of time’ by changing the coloring of the screen.
      – I also changed the players heartbeat by changing the tempo of the music.
      – I also stimulated emotional response by choosing louder & more chaotic music when the onscreen interactions increased (eg baddies nearby).
      – One game made war ‘glorious’ and tournament based (that is, a leaderboard of winning and losing countries)
      – for some market segments we changed red blood into green so that we could ‘get around’ age restriction laws in some countries.
      – etc, etc.

      This was back in the 90’s.

      ‘Virtual Reality’ is all that kids know these days. Every interaction with a digital device is seemingly done so to illicit an emotional response in the user. It’s very sad, and I am ashamed to have had any part in it.

      In fact, most popular websites also try to turn themselves into a game for reasons of user engagement. It’s called ‘gamification’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification. eg Facebook and how many ‘friends’ you have. The survival of any software product these days involves regular updates, otherwise it is interpreted as being ‘stale’ /’out of date’. Even a simple forum has it (new users vs regular users).

  3. That video freaks me out a bit lol. It feels somehow creepy.

  4. This looks to me like a quite important step in blurring the borders between the real, objective world and the fake virtual world. Once that is blurred enough (with future upgrades to the game, making it even more realistic and more connected to the physical reality), people’s minds and perception of reality will become completely twisted, something like psychiatric patients experience I guess, just that in this case it will be something socially acepted, and even desirable.

    Sometimes when I talk to my nephew and niece, I become aware of how much their lives and judgement have been shaped by the current “culture”, the movies they watch and the games they play, and how much different it is from the times I was growing up. But that also makes me see more clearly how even my childhood was already so much different from my grandparents for example, how this trend to ever-increasing artificiality and intellectualism has started a long time ago, and what we see now is just a natural continuation of that, heading to some really insane future unless enough people will be able to see through it and reject it.

  5. That NYC Central Park video…it’s more than disturbing. How easy it is to make people run after a virtual creature! The producer of this game can make thousands of people go wherever they like.

    Then you have to ask yourself, how easy it is to make them vote for something? Have a certain opinion on an important issue? Go to war? Jump off a rock?

    People desperately need to align their lives with something higher, that will help them stay sober and independent, free from the influences that want to run them like a mindless mass.

    • Good questions Pavlin. I feel the same – that there are dangerous implications linked to this game’s popularity. Being able to steer a mass of people to a specific place … I can’t help but feel like this is a potentially dangerous tool of control.

      Remember when kids used their own imaginations and played together in nature or on the streets? Learning to become aware of feelings, interactions, and the energies and atmosphere of the world around them? Now kids are being trained in every aspect of their lives to be attached to their electronic devices – what a recipe for disaster.

    • That’s an interesting parallel you draw there Pavlin about “how easy it is to make them vote for something?”

    • Exactly Pavlin – all those thousands of people running after a fake, non-existent creature. This is what makes me wonder that this must be a part of a deliberate agenda of blurring reality, until one day most of the people will be living in a completely unreal, made-up worlds in their minds, and this world-view will be heavily supported by society, media, employers, etc… until the whole planet will be completely disconnected from reality and truth. A possible visitor from another planet who would see us and our twisted perception of life would then definitely consider us crazy/mentally unstable and probably avoid interactions with us.

  6. The app is so great. I love it. It’s encouraging myself and others to go out and get some exercise and socialise and have a good time. Also it enables people to go out and discover local landmarks that they never new existed. This is an exciting time to be alive.

    • Gym Leader Brock — —

      I can also see some upsides to this popular app, like the ones you mentioned. And in questioning some excited kids in a park on Sunday morning it was quite humorous to hear the reply “a Pikachu has just spawned over there”.

      The straightforward downsides such as that silliness in Central Park, people getting robbed or walking off a cliff are pretty obvious ones.
      But, imo, the bigger negative consequences are perhaps not so easily observed and require someone to take a step back to get a fuller picture.

      Righth now it’s the reliving of Pokemon in a different way, which many people adored earlier in their life. What other sensation will be next? World of Warcraft GO? Positioning an invisible digital world onto the real world? I can see it happening soon. And after that perhaps it’s already time for ‘World of Warcraft GO VR’ where the projection of the fake world onto the real world is much more enhanced than simply viewing through a phone. (btw. I think I’m actually accidentally onto something here) And after that, perhaps a few decades from now, a Star Trek like holodeck or a Matrix like plugging into a program involving all your senses and brain. For the ultimate entertainment experience. Entering the popular world of Harry Potter for example, who wouldn’t want to become a wizard…… Then one could still say; that sounds great! what’s wrong with that?

      (To try to make a very long story short) Basically the level of engagement of entertainment keeps ‘improving’ as well as the constancy of its supply to us (anytime we have free time and a phone/screen available.) The downside of this is that it further occupies our attention and puts our psyche to sleep, we are preoccupied with what’s on the screen, and at the same time preoccupied with our own subconscious. This doesn’t allow the wakefulness/awareness/perception of the outside world which we need in order to start to find out what’s going on in life. Your body will still age, and eventually will die at some point. Life has a purpose that needs to be worked for in order to be fulfilled, when we have spend most of our life in an entertainment it will have been wasted. Life is also about learning and we learn a lot less if we’d spend most of it caught up in an entertainment, because then you can’t see what is happening within you, even though all these diverse emotions might have been aroused left and right throughout the movie, at the end of it they’ll have just passed almostly completely unnoticed.

      I see this comment has grown a lot bigger than originally intended. But I’ll still submit it because I’ve seen firsthand the negative influence TV (or any form of screen entertainment) has on children, on consciousness, and how this makes the pursuit of spiritually even more difficult than it already is.

  7. Absolute madness, the lack of awareness that most people have already with all the entertainments around and now this new wave of games keeping us even more asleep

    I also have heard the argument that its a good thing because it gets people out off the couch, REALLY!!!!!! I feel they may be better staying on the couch

  8. That video is amazing! There aren’t any children there; these are fully grown adults. What an incredible marketing tool.

    I went to the park with a friend recently and a group of people were having a BBQ and joking about this app whilst looking it up.