Are you a Watcher or a Player? That is the question that the recently released film Nerve poses to its audience. Before going further I should say once again that I have not watched this movie, and there will be some out there wondering why don’t I talk about media I have seen. I can understand why since I did the same thing with Ghostbusters (2016).
However I argue that both of these posts are springboards for discussions about elements that can be seen within their own trailers which contain snapshots of their themes and ideas. And the main idea that Nerve demonstrates in its very first trailer is the role that augmented reality plays in the everyday life of the modern individual. Augmented reality as it is defined by Merriam-Webster:
An enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overly digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera); also: the technology used to create augmented reality
This is the perfect description of the game Nerve for it is presented as an extreme internet version of truth or dare. Bob Hoose from Plugged In Movie Reviews summed it up in this way:
Nerve, based on a 2012 young adult novel by Jeanne Ryan, plays on that love/hate relationship with the Internet. It tells a tale of pretty young things who are willing to risk life and limb for a splash of cash and dash of celebrity in their otherwise ordinary lives. And there’s just enough subtext beneath its kids-on-a-digital-dare veneer to keep watchers of the Watchers involved and hoping for a thought-provoking assessment of these contemporary concerns by film’s end.
Given that within this fictional world, this augmented reality internet game show has led people to break the law and risk their own lives for fame and money, I am surprised that the authorities have not even attempted to shut it down because of the danger the participants can pose to themselves as well as others. I guess we have to chalk it up as a forgotten plot-hole.
However Nerve is no longer fiction. Augmented reality has become (pardon the term) a reality. There is an augmented reality game which takes the form of an internet show like Nerve and it is called The Runner. It is airing on the website go90 as I am writing this post and is hosted by a well-known youtuber Matthew Patrick the host of Game Theory and Film Theory youtube channels. In an article it was explained that,
The Runner…is the culmination of a project [Ben] Affleck and [Matt] Damon have been working on for a decade-and-a-half. It will follow its titular runner as he attempts to traverse the United States without being caught by his fellow contestants. On social media, savvy viewers will have opportunities to interpret clues that will help them determine the runner’s current location.
But the most familiar augmented reality game is the recently released and very popular Pokémon Go. And yet within less than a month of its release it has been misused and abused, from leading people to fall off cliffs and causing car accidents to robbery and kidnapping. Granted these are extreme cases, but these outcomes were the result of playing a mobile app that digitally overlays fictional pocket monsters.
If anything Nerve is trying to show how augmented reality is effecting our culture and how devastating the consequences can be. In his review of the movie on Plugged In, Bob Hoose writes that,
On one hand, we’ve come to depend upon—and even take for granted—the Internet’s almost magical ability to instantaneously provide virtually any information we’re searching for. And for those who want to leverage this medium into cyber-stardom, the World Wide Web tantalizingly tempts otherwise average folks to believe that they can become household names. All it takes is a properly placed camera, enough eyeballs watching and enough thumbs clicking a “like” button.
The problem however does not lie with technology, but rather the people using the technology. Any and every technology from a simple book to most advanced computer software can be used for evil. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because we who play have a choice to either let this technology consume us or step back remember that life is more than just a game.
This is especially true for those who profess to be Christians. We are called to use what we have for the glory God and that includes game apps. We should use the technology in a way that is pleasing to Him and not let it consume us to the point we can hurt ourselves or others whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. Instead we should view augmented technologies like Pokémon Go as something to enjoy from time to time as well as a tool to reach out to others.