Pokemon Go: The Birth of Augmented Reality Addiction

The birth of Augmented Reality (AR) is here. All though AR has been around for some time, it has not gotten much attention. With the release of Pokemon Go on July 6th, 2016, AR is officially here. For now on, prepare to see hoards of zombie-like cellphone users wherever you go. So, what is Augmented Reality, what is Pokemon Go, and how are they addictive?

The Blending of Real Life and Electronics: AR

Augmented Reality (AR) is created when a computer generates images and superimposes them into the real world via a display. For example, a cell phone would use its camera and GPS to show a background of the real world to the user. Within this background, the computer can place words, letters, or even images, so it looks like the computer image is part of the real world. With GPS capabilities, virtual objects can exist in areas of the real world, allowing users to access them on their phones.

AR is an excellent idea and can be a very useful technology. Imagine walking down a street and using your phone to see the stores and shops around you, each with ratings and reviews, all by looking at your phone’s display. You would not need to search, as the information would appear on the screen as you aim your phone at it. AR is the future and will most likely become common within the next ten years.

What is Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go is a game by Nintendo that allows users to “catch” virtual reality creatures in the real world. Pokemon Go uses AR to show these creatures to the user, where they then throw a ball via their phones to capture the creature. You can then use these creatures to battle players within the game. What makes this game unique is these creatures can appear in most areas of the real world. To find Pokemon, a player must hunt for them by traveling in the real world until they are found. This means millions of people are walking the streets looking for Pokemon right now. Areas in the real world, called PokeStops, allows the collection of items which will aid in the collecting of Pokemon. These areas are being swarmed with people as they try to gain in-game items.

Players can spend real life money to purchase items to help them gain Pokemon. Lures, for example, attract Pokemon to an area. Different Poke Balls can be purchased to help in the catching of Pokemon. Players can spend hundreds of dollars in cash in Pokemon, which is one of the ways Nintendo makes money from it.

Is Pokemon Go Addictive?

Watch the following video below, then judge for yourself:



You may be wondering what the heck is going on. This video was taken on July 11th at Florida Internation University. Almost all of the students in the video were playing Pokemon Go, all looking for a particular Pokemon called Squirtle. Squirtle is an extremely rare and powerful Pokemon. As you can see, they walk together like a mass of zombies until one player finds it in the environment. He then tries to collect it with a Poke Ball and fails.

Watching these players, especially the player who finds Squirtle, makes you think they won real life money. These are “adults” who have nothing better to do than to search for a digital creature. To them, the accomplishment of collecting rare Pokemon is imperative. For them, the fact that this is a digital creature does not matter.

As a gamer who has had a gaming addiction, I understand. Starting in high school and through most of my undergraduate studies, I was addicted to a game. I spent 10-12 hours a day in a virtual world. In the game, I collected unique items and felt the thrill. I was completely addicted during this period, and I wonder how many of the students in the video will become addicted.

But Pokemon Go is Harmless, Right?

No. There have been reports of drivers crashing into trees while searching for Pokemon. It is getting so bad police are putting out statements like the one below:

Worse, players are being robbed while playing Pokemon Go. Four teens were arrested in St. Charles Country, Mo. when they used a beacon in the game to lure players to their location then robbed them at gunpoint. PokeCrime is going to take off as other criminals will lure people to their locations. Sadly, it will not be long before someone dies due to Pokemon Go.

So, is Pokemon Go and AR Addictive?

For some, it can be. Most of the people playing Pokemon Go are not addicts but are attracted to the fad. Over the next few weeks, many will tire of it and go to something else. Out of those who continue, some will become addicted.

Addictions that are collective based are not new. The idea of completing a collection can be very powerful and intoxicating. Having unique items, or boasting a rare collection is a sense of accomplishment. Many who will become addicted to Pokemon Go will feel the need to collect, which is the primary purpose of the game. Those who do will likely spend hundreds of dollars or more and in the end, have a collection that will be worthless once the game is replaced with another.

Augmented Reality is not the addictive element in this addiction. It is just a vehicle for the addiction. Finding items in the real world will increase the appeal of the addiction, but collecting will be the focus.

What Do We Do Now?

All we can do now is sit back and see if this fades out over time or increases. Regardless of if you play Pokemon Go or not, you need to be mindful of your surroundings. Many people are on their cell phones so much they do not notice much around them. This is a safety issue for all involved. If you play Pokemon Go, be sure to do so in a well-lit area and not after dark. Be mindful of your time in the game and do not let it consume your day. Playing in small bursts is fine, but do not let it overwhelm you. Whatever you do, do not play Pokemon Go while driving and use common sense. In the end, understand it is just a game, and your real life matters more.

Photo Credit: Pokemon.com


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Nathan Driskell

Hello, my name is Nathan Driskell and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor – Supervisor in the Houston / Cypress area specializing in the treatment of Internet Addiction & Asperger’s / Autism. I work with children, adolescents, adults, couples & families.

You can reach me at my website or call me directly at 832-559-3520 if you have any questions. Thank You!
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