Travis Holland deposited Embodied dwelling: the ontology of objects in Pokémon GO on Humanities Commons 4 years, 9 months ago
The actions of making trails and wandering along them have long been limited to just a couple of realms: either they have existed in media such as games, in the imagination, or they have taken place in the physical world. This article is a speculative engagement with the metaphysics of the mobile phone-based augmented reality game Pokémon GO, which combines the physical and digital worlds into a unified experience of embodiment, movement and play. It considers the nature of the embodiment experienced by Pokémon GO players, and their relationship to the spaces and places in which they dwell during and after play – simultaneously in both the real world and the virtual game world of Pokémon GO. Both worlds offer the opportunity to experience different instantiations of the same space, in the sense that the digital world recreates aspects of the physical world and, in so doing, fuses and entangles them. Pokémon GO is an interesting case study because, unlike many other digital games, it enforces physical movement through the real world as a mechanic of gameplay. It is also a wildly popular game that builds upon similar mechanics of the forerunner game Ingress by the same publisher, Niantic. Embodiment is positioned alongside the notion of dwelling as a distinct practice of attunement to and engagement with the world – as a turning towards the world through the use of devices that reveal hidden digital features. Additionally, the article explores the ontology of objects within the game, plus the mobile devices used to access the game world, both of which operate to distinguish the game world from the underlying ‘real’ world. These objects are positioned as ‘mediators’, after Latour’s actor-network theory (ANT). Their role is described as boundary markers and access points between the digital and physical.