It only took a few days, but Pokémon Go has already spurred some intent philosophising.
Yeah, the initially vacuous concept of roaming around your neighbourhood in search of digital baddies to capture and collect apparently offers a fair few moral quandaries. Just ask Waleed Aly, who today hosted ABC Radio National’s The Minefield, alongside Aunty’s religion and ethics expert Scott Stephens and guest philosopher Laura D’Olimpio.
All three of ’em had varying views on the utterly bonkers smash hit app, with Aly making the first case for it. According to him, it harkens to more established concepts like the scavenger hunt and geocaching that offer families an opportunity to band together to… well, be the very best, that no-one ever was.
“Instead of staring vacantly into a screen at home, they’re staring vacantly into a screen in a park, at least.
Kids and parents are doing this together because of the nostalgic value, of course it was huge 20 years ago but now you’ve got a generation who are sharing it with their kids…
It’s kind of like a family activity in a way. It’s anaemic, I’ll give you that, it’s a pale imitation of what a family activity can be but I wonder if it’s a lesser evil.”
His concerns about the app – outside the many physical ramifications walking around with your eyes locked on the screen could have – mainly focus around the blurred lines of the real and the unreal.
He worries about the boundaries players should set, saying “I have very real concerns about the colonisation of the real and the sacred, with the unreal and trivial.
But the question for me is not whether Pokémon Go is an ethical game, but what is the ethically informed way of playing Pokémon Go?”
It’s heady stuff, which co-host Stephens shot down from the get-go. According to him, the game is nothin’ more than “the harbinger for the end of the world as we know it.”
In his view, the game’s congealed concepts have been problematic since day dot. Describing when the series first came to prominence, he said “even then, there were certain ethical questions that were being raised….
It’s this radical fusion of this obsession with collecting, mass marketed cartoons, and what is essentially cockfighting for kids…
The whole thing kind of sounds ethically dubious.”
D’Olimpio managed to inject some optimism into the whole world of augmented reality. Despite concerns “if we’re not considering how we’re interacting with those spaces, that’s where the problem arises, if we’re just automating ourselves,” she concedes this kinda tech is just gonna proliferate, whether we like it or not.
So, she asks “this ethical question is ‘how should we allow technology to mediate our lives and our lived experiences in ways that are positive, that might be conducive to flourishing?’…
Our intention is to have a positive engagement in our communities, as opposed to this isolation and disconnection where the only form of love and connection is technological.”
For all intents and purposes, the discussion uses Go as a lens through which to probe the concept of games (and even leisure activities in general) in philosophical terms, but hot damn – that convergence of pop philosophy and training telekinetic platypuses to fight is a sweet convergence indeed.
Listen to the whole episode right here – hell, you could even do it while you’re out and about snatching up all of those Rattatas.