Pokémon Gone: Loss, Nostalgia, and Virtual Re-wilding in Pokémon GO POSTPONED

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Dr Elias Grieg
The University of Melbourne

In 2016, imaginary monsters invaded public and private spaces around the world. Using GPS and augmented reality, Niantic's free-to-play Pokémon GO overlaid the decaying, urbanised landscapes of the Anthropocene with the verdant, creature-haunted environs of Pokémon. Based on Satoshi Tajiri's video game, in which players explore a utopian world of lush nature and futuristic cities, capturing "pocket monsters" which are, in turn, used to battle and capture others of their kind, Pokémon Go offers the unique promise of access to, and, ultimately, existence within this world via smartphone. While critics have been quick to note the commodified nature on show in the game as compatible with anthropocentric narratives of consumption and domination, this talk considers Pokémon GO, its rapid uptake, and rapid decline, as a symptom of a disreputable but nonetheless genuine longing for co-existence and integration with the natural world. Pokémon GO is revealed as a media of compensation, meant to soothe and distract from ecological collapse even as it freshens and reinforces the losses it attempts to remedy, an ambivalence that haunts all AR and VR media, with, to adapt William Hazlitt’s phrase, "two worlds of reality and of fiction […] poised on the wings of [its] imagination."

This seminar is part of the Digital Studio's 2020 Seminar Series - Seeing Double: The Multiple Worlds of Virtual Reality which is presented in partnership with the Enlightenment, Romanticism Contemporary Culture research unit.


Dr Elias Greig is research assistant to the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Contemporary Culture research unit at the University of Melbourne. His work considers the interaction between artistic and political representation, with a particular interest in the effects of democracy on literary form, from the eighteenth century to the present.