Pokémon Go has been dominating the media and the streets, with crowds gathering and provoking chaos when rare characters appear on screen. It shows us to what extent Lacans statement: “ You are from now on, more than you would ever think, subjects of instruments (…). ”2can be understood.
Several online articles are reporting that the game has benefits for people suffering from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and autism. Media are also describing that people who had trouble going outside, are now capable of leaving their place while playing the game. Often these effects are attributed to the positive role of physical exercise on the subject. Another conducted study relates these positive effects to mental health insofar as the game provides a sense of belonging and triggers opportunity for social interaction. From a Lacanian perspective these explanations cannot stand since they only focus on the Imaginary and the Symbolic. An interpretation of the phenomenon has to take into account the Real and jouissance: “(…) what is symptomatic in this abundance of objects, is above all that it turns us into slaves, which means that we are enjoying it.”3.
The goal of the game is expressed by the one-liner Gotta catch ‘em all. The object a, object forever lost, has been replaced by virtual objects, of which some are rarer than others but if one tries hard enough, all of them can be caught. It is the object Gadget, as defined by Lacan in the discourse of the capitalist where there is no room for the impossible and castration is denied, that has been exploited by the game. Instead of catching them all, players themselves are being entangled by the game’s highly addictive features.
This game seems to be a rather temporary4 solution, tying up the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real, creating a new social bond, and thus supplementing for something that is lacking in the first place.
1 Dominique Holvoet refers to the concept of Augmented human in his intervention for the Kring voor Psychoanalyse on the 4th of October 2014, called Symptom of crisis, crisis of the symptom.
2 Lacan, J. (1975). Encore. Le Séminaire Livre XX (1972-1973). Paris: Seuil, p. 76. Loosely translated from French.
3 Holvoet, D. Symptom of crisis, crisis of the symptom, Intervention for the Kring voor Psychoanalyse on the 4th of October 2014.
4 Recent news articles are reporting a dramatically decrease in overall game activity. Instead of Pokémon Go, other applications (Facebook, Snapchat …) are gaining in popularity once again. It’s only a matter of time before other (augmented reality) games appear on the horizon.