As the global Pokemon GO frenzy spreads, naturally creepy stories are cropping up. Why "naturally"? Because we tend to generate disturbing stories about almost every new technological development, trying to haunt the tech that otherwise delights us.
The following stories are of variable veracity, being new and riding the craze wave.
According to The Washington Post, there are three Pokéstops associated with the museum, which predictably leads to hoards of fans, young and old alike, swarming those areas at any given time.
The museum's communications director, Andrew Hollinger, told The Post, "Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism. We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game."
One additional reason these stories are taking off is that augmented reality hasn't really captured the public imagination. This game has brought it to our collective attention, and now all of the potential anxieties can fly free.
Another reason: fears about computer games have been running for years, and haven't lost their power. Ditto mobile computing.
Mobile, AR, gaming - it's really a nice fearsome brew that Pokemon GO has stirred up.
Remember, we try to haunt every technology we make.
This week we're seeing some new fear crop up around the intersection of gaming, augmented reality, and mobile devices. There's a new Pokemon game, Pokemon GO, which lets you collect 'em all in a digital real superimposed on the physical.
[P]olice believe the suspects used the phone app, which directs users to capture imaginary creatures superimposed onto the real world, to tempt players into secluded areas where they could be easily robbed. At a certain level in the game, he noted, players can congregate at local landmarks to join teams and battle.
“Using the geolocation feature,” Stringer said, “the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims.”
In a separate statement, a department spokesperson added: “you can add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players. Apparently they were using the app to locate [people] standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in.”
AR gaming fear really hasn't been a thing. Maybe Pokemon GO pushes it forward.
After all, at least one photographer managed to catch someone playing the game in front of H.R. Giger street art:
An augmented reality game led one player to the Gothic this week. A Pokemon player, instructed to find one of that game's creatures digitally located on the physical plane, instead found quiet horror:
"I was trying to get a Pokémon from a natural water resource."
She said she climbed over a fence to get down to the river.
“I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water,” Ms Wiggins said. “I had to take a second look and I realized it was a body.”
She said the body appeared to be that of a man dressed in black and was floating three feet from the shore.
Freshly deposited man in black, too.
It's a nice series of juxtapositions: playfulness and the most serious; free-floating digital and a floating corpse.
There's also an interesting side story involving the cops:
Police in Australia were forced to make an official statement about the game on Friday after users kept trying to get into a Darwin police station to capture the character Sandshrew, who was apparently inside.
“Whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don't actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs,” a police spokesperson wrote on Facebook.
The way it works: first the the user prepares the board. The querant creates a 2x2 grid of answers, where the bottom left and top right are identical, as are the upper left and bottom right. "Yes" and "no" are good answers to put down. Next the postulant lays a pencil down along the x axis divide, then places a second pencil atop the first one, aligned along the y axis.
Next, the user gazes upon the pencils and paper, speaking a question preceded by the invocation "Charlie Charlie". As in: "Charlie Charlie, will I ever learn what's causing the severed foot phenomenon?" Charlie may refer to a demon or other spirit, whose assistance enables the query. Sooner or later, the top pencil will waver and indicate one pair of answer boxes. Creepiness results, or at least confusion and excitement. Don't forget to close the circle.
Charlie Charlie merits Infocult's attention because of its uncanny nature, obviously. At least one American cleric has denounced the practice for being bad witchcraft, as has a Vatican priest. Jamaica's education ministry banned students from playing.
Charlie also draws our gaze as a fearsome digital media event, since the craze only took off in a big way once it hit social media (heck, even Time magazine noticed; could Charlie be over already?). Vine was a popular place for Charlie videos, then YouTube, and now the Twitter hashtag CharlieCharlieChallenge aggregates a vast swarm of examples, questions, and reactions. So Charlie is now an internet thing, especially for young folks. Let's see if it gets the cyberfear treatment.
There may be a hoax/ARG aspect to CharlieCharlie as well, since at least Wikipedia claims the phenomenon was spurred as viral marketing for a new horror movie.
Additionally, there's a hispanic culture angle. Some players deem Charlie a Mexican demon, which seems unlikely. But there are signs the game or precedents appeared in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, before hitting the anglophonic world. Nice to see this Gothic transmission route operating again.
One more note: the utterly low-cost nature of Charlie makes it an apt oracle for our economically shambolic time.
A new study found that not only do computer games with violent content not cause offline mayhem, but may actually reduce violence.
The study compared 30 years of FBI crime statistics and “how they line up with violent video game releases.” He expected that shootings would increase when new VVGs came on the market, however, “the exact reverse” happened. Analysis of the most popular violent video games (Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Halo) showed that homicides consistently decreased following the release of new versions of the games, he said.[emphasis added]
While, after playing violent video games, some people might be more likely to act like “jerks,” that does not mean their behavior rises to the level of violence, said Markey, who has been doing research on media for 10 years. It’s “quite a leap” to say that violent video games led to the horrific Sandy Hook or Columbine shootings, for example, he said.
Let's see if this gets picked up by mainstream media or academic discussions.
CNN, America's most visible purveyor of Gothic horrors, now turns to China for a glimpse of the death simulator.
"Samadhi -- 4D Experience of Death," is a morbid "escape room" game that uses dramatic special effects to bring players close to what its creators imagine is an experience of death.
One highlight is a cremation experience. Oh yes:
Losers get cremated -- or are at least made to lie on a conveyor belt that transports them through a fake funeral home incinerator to simulate death rites. The faux cremator will use hot air and light projections to create what the organizers call "an authentic experience of burning."
Escape the room games seem to be developing well in the analog world.
Phil Sandifer offers a nice description of a creepy level in a 1990 video game.
He begins with an ominous title, "The Execution Of All Things (Mega Man 3)". Then, after some text, things get disturbing:
[A]fter beating the eight Robot Masters in Mega Man 3, the player is forced to replay four of their stages. The stages exist this time in a ruined form - platforms have been blasted out of existence, it’s pitch black where it used to be day, and in every case the place has largely gone to the dogs, which is to say, become a lot harder. But what’s really notable are the bosses - eight identical junkheap looking robots (two for each level) who, when you encounter them, are inhabited by the spectral presences of the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2.
This is a fascinating idea, rerunning the level but in a sense of decay. It cuts against the cheerful superficial style of many period games.
This decrepit level also, as Sandifer concludes, is based on both memory and a sense of the game series' termination.
"Lie to the Devil"pushes the boundaries of fearsome computer gaming. In it "a sinister MacBook... tries to con them into putting a bullet in their head."
First, the computer asks you: “Does the pain of others make you feel good or bad?”
Next, you create an avatar, and a cute little pet. Then, the computer tries to talk you into putting a revolver to your head, in effect holding your virtual creations ransom. The object is to win by deceiving the computer.
KillScreen's reviewer offers this splendid analogy:
I’d describe it as Videodrome meets the Milgram obedience experiment meets a chatterbox
This might cross the border between game and performance art, or just be viewed as an interactive installation.