It’s been a long time since a groundbreaking innovation in film has caused stampedes, arrests and mayhem in general. Avatar broke box office records, people queued, but the excitement was far tamer than for this new, exciting prospect. Yes, people have been hurt trying to avoid the train that was speeding towards them during the first showing of The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, but it didn’t reach those levels. I’m talking, of course, about Pokémon Go. The riots were probably caused by excited millennials rather than cohorts of crazy filmmakers, though. However, here’s why this game should catch your attention.
A cultural phenomenon
There was a stampede in Central Park. Someone was arrested in France for trespassing on a military base in search of a Pokémon that was in that direction. It definitely was a poor idea as the country’s residents are currently stripped of their fundamental rights due to the terrorist threat, but that’s the power of the medium that Pokémon Go makes such awesome use of: it grabs the heart.
Nintendo’s stock shot up to unprecedented heights and won the record for fastest rise in history, the app was more downloaded than Tinder. It’s also, significantly, the continuation of a phenomenon that started in the 90’s for what was to become the millennial generation, a time when my older brother came home with loads of Pokémon cards for me that our mother refused to know how he acquired them. Pokémon Go is finally taking those precious memories into the digital age.
A phenomenal use of augmented reality
That medium is augmented reality. Not to be mistaken with virtual reality, an other awesome medium that filmmakers are only just trying wrap their head around. The video below showcases one example of commercial use of the medium.
What can the medium bring? First, it brings control of the storyline. You are on your phone, defining your trajectory in your environment. The great fun is that what once was an imaginary land that only existed in your imagination, in cartoons on the confined screen of your television or in pixels on your GameBoy Color leaps out into your world, Purple Rose of Cairo-style. It’s not immersion into another world, as virtual reality is, it’s merging both worlds. Imagine doing that with Harry Potter, or any contemporary myth. Imagine doing that on Google Glass (or a similar tool).
If you go into augmented reality: think of the tool. Phone? Tablet? Think of the storyline. Think of the environment. Creating a story in augmented reality in a neighbourhood of New York, Paris or London would take an insane amount of work and would push the limits of storytelling.
But then again, that’s also true for a great film.