Tag Archives: app

Nintendo: Once and Future Overlords of Gaming (and the World?)

Friends,

On July 6, Nintendo/Niantic released the “augmented reality” game, Pokemon Go. In this new instalment of the franchise, players are required to move around the world, the real world, in order to capture monsters digitally super-imposed onto the landscape around them and observed/detected/captured with their smartphone.

While an interesting idea, I was a little cynical when I first read up on this mechanism of the game. Why cynical? Well it seems to me that Nintendo has been trying to incorporate physical activity into gaming since the release of the Wii in 2006 (although in a broader sense they have been trying to get gamers out of the house more since the release of the Game Boy back in the 80s). While I appreciate this good intent, I remember that on the handful on occasions I played Wii, after the initial novelty had worn off, I kinda just wanted to play sprawled out on a couch in a dark room with the blinds drawn and wearing dirty track pants, like nature and God had intended.

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

Cm-KlcYUEAAm_NX

Cm-LbeIVYAA2uJe

Or, most tellingly…

sorry-mom-ill-be-leaving-our-hometown-next-year-to-1213139

People are literally being mobilized to go out into the world in a way that video games have not been able to (nor sought to) make them thus far.

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Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Why is this incredible? Well, Nintendo, or more specifically Niantic has figured out a way to not only get people to move around in the world, but has theoretically also found a way to get mass groups of people to all congregate in certain places at certain times. If you look at Niantic’s last augmented reality game, Ingress, you see a world where people try and dominate the global-digital landscape with whatever colour they have chosen, blue or green.

ingress-screenshots-r471x

They can “attack” and thus take over any region held by the opposing team provided they physically go to that area. However, beyond co-ordinated attacks or other such player-driven events, there is nothing driving people to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the case of Pokemon GO, all the Pokemon (at least those which have been released thus far) seem to be distributed more or less evenly in the countries where the game can played*, taking into account of course that certain types are only found in certain geographic conditions i.e. water-type Pokemon only found by bodies of water, etc. But as suggested by the above Bear Grylls meme, what’s to prevent Niantic from placing a Legendary (thus rare and prized) Pokemon like Articuno, somewhere inaccessible like Everest Base Camp? Nothing, save for the limitations of Google Maps.

But let’s take it a step further. What if Niantic released a statement saying that a certain incredibly rare Pokemon would appear only on the lawn of the White House, and then only for twelve hours? People would MOB D.C.!

……

Okay, this scenario is probably beyond a “step further” but I think you get my point. Even if Niantic did a 5-day Pokemon appearance event in a certain city, we could see mass-migrations of people. How serious am I about that? Well, according to Wikipedia, the app, after less than a week of being released, and then only officially in three countries, topped daily usage of Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram. That means, it’s beating out people’s libidos and narcissism -no mean feat.

The effort put into capturing Pokemon may seem unbelievable to non-gamers, but is it that surprising? We take our games very seriously especially when there is a ranking structure and an opportunity to demonstrate our prowess and superiority. MMOs in recent years have seen this vulnerability exploited as people will stay indoors on a beautiful, sunny Saturday playing games online in order to take advantage of Double XP weekends. It’s about bragging rights and Pokemon GO differs only in one critical arena -your couch is the last place you wanna be.

Artificial Scarcity
I’m fond of talking about the power of scarcity to motivate people and games truly exploit that power. Whether it’s reddit karma, Pokemon in your pokedex or having a Vex Mythoclast in Destiny, these are things that take work to accumulate/acquire. It’s hilarious because they are digital constructs -lines of code, which by their nature are infinite. But, limit their available quantity or occurrence, attach some status to possessing them and all of a sudden people will scramble.

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For now, this is all guess-work and hypothesizing on my part. But it seems foolish not to make the thought-experiment. Maybe this potential hasn’t occurred to Niantic/Nintendo or maybe they are just waiting for an opportune time to mobilize their willing army of Pokemon trainers against the regimes of the world.

All I know is, if it turns out that there are to be different Pokemon in different parts of the world, I will be on the front lines becoming the greatest Pokemon master of them all.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*The game has at this point only officially been released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but lo and behold, here is a picture of me playing it in Canada…

IMG_1609
Fuck the P0-lice!

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Filed under blog, futurism, gaming, opinion, pokemon, travel, Uncategorized

Seeing my Privates

“Our technology has exceeded our humanity”
-Albert Einstein

My Friends,
   A friend of mine posted this link last night about a currently unavailable app called Girls Around Me. The writer of the blog/review recounts telling a group of friends about an app which allowed someone to find people with public facebook profiles in a certain geographic radius.  These didn’t have to be people on a friend’s list, but anyone who had logged onto facebook from their iphone, basically allowing the user to see facebook users nearby and view their profiles, though it could be set to locate boys, girls or both.  Predictably, the boys of the group thought it was funny while the girl’s thought it was invasive and upsetting.  The rationale for the female apprehension was that a guy could find a cute girl at a bar, look at her pics to see what kind of drinks she likes, what some of her interests are and where she is at a certain moment so that he could go intercept her and come off as Mr. Right, either through slick conversation of liberally applied “frosty margaritas.”
   By the article’s end, the writer describes how his friends, males included, were all uneasy about the invasiveness of the app, and describes how its main function in his eyes was to hammer home the importance of being aware of your facebook privacy settings, and online privacy in general.  I don’t take issue with this conclusion, and the company which created the app maintains that people could always have adjusted their privacy settings.  Rather what I take issue with is the knee-jerk reaction to this technology because it is misdirected, as I find most indignation typically is.
   The girls in the article took issue with Apple and Facebook for allowing this app to be created and sold, and of course with the potential rapists and stalkers who would undoubtedly try and use it to rape and stalk more efficiently.  Because if there is anything the ambitious rape/stalker values it is maximizing his preying to prowling ratio.

Possible Tagline: “Girls Around Me: The industry leader in streamlining raping and stalking operations”
…or perhaps…
“Girls Around Me: Rape Solutions for the Modern Predator”

   In the case of the FB/Apple rage and the uproar which ultimately caused the app to be shut down: is this really the answer?  App censorship?  Making something illegal or removing it entirely is not the proper way to deal with a problem but that logic seems to dominate any thinking about problem resolution.  If we ban enough potentially offensive (or actually offensive) things, will the ne’er-do-wells among us, constantly biding their time waiting to pounce, finally get the message that we don’t appreciate the threat they pose and leave us alone?  Of course not.  When has a law or a ban or a removal of something ever stopped or curtailed undesired behaviours and interests?  But clamoring for new rules is a lot easier than taking time to think critically and address causes I suppose.
   With regard to the so-called “stalkers and rapists” whom this app served as an enabler for, I have to ask: has this app really been that much of a boon?, and do they even really exist?  Now I don’t mean to downplay the problem of rape and obsessive behaviours like stalking, and I am not claiming anything like the stats being overblown because I don’t know the stats and frankly even one incident is too many.  But still, do these people really exist?  I don’t question the possibility that given a certain sequence of events, moods, and opportunities that rapes can happen.  But when people talk about rapists and other criminals like them, their rhetoric always seems to allude to a shadowy group which is constantly watchful in alleys outside of clubs, waiting for an unescorted girl in a miniskirt and wobbly with booze to swoop in on.

First rule of ‘Rape Club’…

Certainly to such a group as this, Girls Around Me would be a boon, revolutionizing the rape game by allowing the predator a menu of sorts, but I question the very existence of this secretive cabal of rapists and stalkers.
   Now remember who is saying this: I am someone who has no problem believing that there are certain powers which pull strings behind the curtains and who are the true controllers of the world we think our “democratically elected” leaders run, however I can’t co-sign the prospect that there are rapists everywhere among us**, and certainly I can’t co-sign the idea that they are legion.
   Well, one exception comes to mind…
   When I hear criticisms of this technology, I see fear that is not unfounded but misdirected.  People are so worried about the implications of technology that they will still use anyway because it is actually amazing and has the potential to be incredibly useful if everyone completely opened their privacy settings.  But we can’t because we have reason to fear being completely open with strangers: why?
   Again we come back to “why,” my oft-asked favourite question.  Why should we be afraid of other people?  Like I said, the fear, though overblown, is not unfounded.  Why might someone use this or any technology to hurt us?
   To those like me who fear institutions more than their fellow man: why would you be afraid of an organization or government using this or any social media to spy on you or data-mine you?  Why would they want to data-mine and spy in the first place?
   In my head it is clear that these potential misappropriations of technology in no way reflect poorly on the technology or its creator, but rather on the system which puts us at odds with each other to the point where we would use potentially beneficial creations as weapons.  If you think about it, all technologies are neutral, yet they get blamed for misuse and the violence which is integral to the system which applies them.
   Think I’m full of shit?  Mebbe, but let me quickly demonstrate how any technology can be hijacked for violent purposes:

1. Toothbrush

   What’s more wholesome and beneficial than a toothbrush?  It conjures up images of young children learning hygiene and taking charge of their dental health.  But to some, this revolutionary technology has far more sinister applications:

“Late night I hear toothbrushes scrapin’ on the floor/
Niggaz gettin’ they shanks just in case the war/
pop off!..”
-Snoop Dogg Lion, Murder Was The Case

2. Pencil

   Arguably one of the greatest pieces of technology ever created.  Allows us to solidify ideas on paper and gives us something to chew on when stumped.  But it can be repurposed…

“…My little homey Baby-Boo took a pencil in his neck/
And he probly won’t make it to see 22/
I put that on my mama, ‘Imma ride for you Baby-Boo’…”
-Snoop Lion, Murder Was The Case

3. Fire
   I don’t think anyone needs me to post a picture of fire nor tell of how it allowed us to cook food, smelt metal and power early machines.  Without saying it is more useful than pencils have been, it has certainly been more fundamental to our early development.  However, it too has been repurposed for negative uses:
I suppose we should ban fire now?

4. Rocketry
It can be either this:
Saturn V Rocket, the kind that sent to the astronauts to the moon

Or this:
Trident II Nuclear Missile

Any questions?

***
   I hope these examples make it clear that technology is in and of itself benign.  Certainly some might be inherently dangerous, such as nuclear technologies, but they are not by themselves malicious or violent.  It takes an aberrant and poorly socialized human being (or human species) to look at something and decide, hey instead of using that for the good of all I think I’ll use it to kill…
…or rape, as the case may be.

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
**In a certain manner of speaking, I think there actually are rapists everywhere among us. Perhaps more than even the most paranoid father of virginal young daughters might think.  For I think most anyone can rape or commit a violent act given the right (wrong) circumstances.  It is folly when people, in shock from stories of a horrible crime, ask, “How could someone do that to another human being?,” or even worse when they maintain, “I could never do something like that.”  
   Well, no one is born evil (evil doesn’t even exist) or born a rapist, much less conceived that way.  So the factors which contributed to their aberrant behaviour must be environmental, which means that anyone can be susceptible to becoming a predator or violent if certain conditions are met.  When we are told as kids that we “can be anything,” there is actually a lot more truth there than we realize.

   

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