Werner Herzog Narrates Pokémon Go: Imagines It as a Murderous Metaphor for the Battle to Survive

Like filmmaker Werner Herzog, I have existed in near total ignorance of Pokémon Go, a virtual reality game that purports to get players on their feet and out in the real world.

Without a smartphone—an item Werner refuses to own for “cultural reasons”—one cannot participate.

I have a smartphone, but my data plan is so small, I’m afraid I’d blow it all in hot pursuit of a Bulbasaur, whatever the hell that is. My kids never got into Pokémon and thus, neither did I. Reports that some cartoon was causing seizures in Japanese child viewers was my introduction to the world of Pokémon. Epilepsy runs in the family. It wasn’t hard for me to steer clear.

I have noticed a large number of Facebook friends praising the game’s non-virtual aspects. Their children are emerging into the light, gamboling through parks and public squares, finding common ground with neighbors and other players.

Does Werner have Facebook friends?

I think we all know the answer to that.

We both got an unexpected crash course in Pokémon Go, when Werner was interviewed by The Verge’s Emily Yoshida about his online MasterClass in filmmaking and Lo and Behold, his new documentary about the technological revolution.

Yoshida explained the Pokémon Go phenomenon to him thusly:

It’s basically the first mainstream augmented reality program. It’s a game where the entire world is mapped and you walk around with the GPS on your phone. You walk around in the real world and can catch these little monsters and collect them. And everybody is playing it.

Herzog was most interested in what happens when the Pokémon appear in the virtual crosshairs:

When two persons in search of a Pokémon clash at the corner of Sunset and San Vicente is there violence? Is there murder?… Do they bite each other’s hands? Do they punch each other?

He declined Yoshida’s offer to borrow her cell phone in order to try the game out, at which point Slate’s Daniel Hubbard and Forrest Wickman stepped in, cutting together footage of the game and the animated series with some of the most memorable narration from Herzog’s oevure.

Seen through the above lens, Pokémon Go becomes a reflection of our ongoing battle for survival, rife with fornication, asphyxiation, and rot. The trees and birds are in misery, and the penguins are insane.

It almost makes me want to play! Though in truth, I think another of Herzog’s activities —venturing into the countryside “to look a chicken in the eye with great intensity”—is more my speed.

Read the complete interview on The Verge.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest script, Fawnbook, is available in a digital edition from Indie Theater Now.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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