Last year, on the first day of Comic-Con, I watched Jennifer Lawrence lead a raucous Hunger Games panel where she razzed her co-stars and wiped her runny nose on the dais tablecloth. This year, on the first day of Comic-Con, Oliver Stone brought his new film Snowden to Hall H for a sedate conversation about infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the film. It was a little bit of cognitive dissonance, to come to this convention devoted to blockbuster spectacle and fantasy only to watch an Oscar-winning filmmaker earnestly discuss patriotism and answer questions about Manuel Noriega. I could feel the crowd getting restless.
And then, some angel in the audience asked Oliver Stone about Pokémon Go.
“It’s this thing that separates us from each other,” piped up Zachary Quinto, who plays journalist Glenn Greenwald in Snowden. Quinto had recently made fun of Nintendo’s app phenomenon on Instagram, and he was surprised to find pushback in the comments. “Everybody was like, ‘It actually connects us with each other and gets us out of our houses and we’re walking around!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but getting hit by cars?’”
Continued Quinto, “I guess like for me personally — and no judgment attached to this whatsoever, I feel like people need to pursue what makes them happy — but what makes me happy is looking up from my screen and looking at somebody and putting this thing down for at least some part of the day. Finding connection that transcends the machines that are supposed to make us connected. I feel as long as you can find a balance in that, and limit your Pokémon Go time, then I’m all for it. Have at it.”
The audience laughed, but Stone wasn’t having it. “It’s not really funny,” the filmmaker scolded us. “I’m hearing about it too, it’s a new level of invasion. Once the government had been hounded by Snowden, of course the corporations went into encryption, because they had to for survival, right? But the search for profits is enormous. Nobody has ever seen, in the history of the world, something like Google, ever. It’s the fastest-growing business ever, and they have invested huge amounts of money into what surveillance is, which is data-mining. They’re data-mining every person in this room for information as to what you’re buying, what it is you like, and above all, your behavior. Pokémon Go kicks into that. It’s everywhere. It’s what some people call surveillance capitalism. It’s the newest stage.”
Now we were cooking with gas! Stone wrapped up his Pokémon Go thoughts by predicting imminent doom: “You’ll see a new form of, frankly, a robot society, where they will know how you want to behave and they will make the mockup that matches how you behave and feed you. It’s what they call totalitarianism.”
Well, reader, things had definitely taken a turn. “You just made 6,500 delete Pokémon Go,” said panel moderator Dave Karger, though a Pokéfan near me muttered, “No!” For some, clearly, a nearby Ivysaur is worth the risk.