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Pokémon Go as Pop Situationism // William Lessard

Pokémon Go turns the world into a series of virtual milestones. It co-opts the pursuit of gamified art-actions French Situations prescribed in the 1960s to free people from the brainwashing influence of mass media. Guy Debord, the founder of the movement, which took center stage during the May 1968 Paris student riots, might delight in this development, were he to go beyond the obvious Orwellian overtones everyone else has been beating to death. I would like to think he would because, in his most famous work The Society of the Spectacle, he understood that consumers understand their condition. What lies beyond the branding-our-gaze-with-corporate-IP argument is a lysergic truth the folks with purple highlights and rainbow tattoos have already figured out: Pokémon Go is a training module. Its branded spirits show us how to interact with the world on a magical level, a skill that one day could be accessed without technological assistance—that morning we forget our phone at home or decide we no longer need it to play games with our favorite angels.

Debord wasn't an acid guy, but the pages he devoted to a systematic use of alcohol as a tool for unlocking ecstasy suggest he would be pleased by Pokémon Go as pop Situationism—once he struggled through the first few levels.


William Lessard has writing that has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's, Fanzine, NPR, Prelude, Wired, Hyperallergic, People Holding. His chapbook Rembrandt with Cell Phone has just been published by Reality Beach.

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