If you are unaware of the works of Kazuma Kamachi I will lay down a quick primer on his series. His most famous work is A Certain Magical Index and the tagline of the series is “When Magic and Science collide, the story begins…” It is set in a world where magic exists in the shadows as a secret hidden away from the mundane majority. Think of a set up like that of Harry Potter or Mage: The Ascension. At the same time, the center of scientific learning is Academy City. It is such an advanced hub of research and development that the city is often several years ahead of the curve in technological advances as compared to the rest of the world. While the residents of Academy City have no access to magic they have instead cultivated psionics to an art form. The main characters, the physic Touma Kamijou and the magical Index Librorum Prohibitorum, are the bridge between these two worlds.
As the series went on the psionic side character Mikoto Misaka became insanely popular and got her own spin-off series, A Certain Scientific Railgun. As the name implies the series almost entirely deals with the science side of Academy City and the various machinations and misadventures of the super-sensory inhabitants within.
But the clairvoyant skills might not just be limited to the characters within the book. Kazuma Kamachi himself might actually be an esper. It turns out that he predicted Pokémon Go years before it came out. Just look at the craze around the fictional app introduced in chapter 72 of A Certain Scientific Railgun. It is worth noting that the chapter came out on October 27 of 2014, but Pokémon Go was just released July 6, 2016.
In the world of A Certain Scientific Railgun, so many people in Academy City have powers that there is a division of the police that just deals with psionic crimes called Anti-Skill. At the same time since a good deal of the city’s inhabitants are students, there is a student division of Anti-Skill called Judgment that deals with minor student related crimes and disturbances. The main characters of A Certain Scientific Railgun are either members or friends of that organization. As such a most of the big storylines start with hooks surrounding petty crimes and minor disturbances as opposed to grizzly homicides and large-scale crime waves.
As it turns out two years ago one of those story hooks involved an Augmented Reality game whose popularity causes a great number of problems for the officers of Judgment. The Treasure Hunting App hides treasures chests all over town that people have to find with smartphones. Anyone who finds these chests in the game can win real-life prizes. This means people playing the game are running all around Academy City with faces glued to their screens trying to find treasure chests before anyone else can. This leads to lots of trespassing, the annoyance of local businesses, players getting injured when they are not paying attention to their surroundings, users getting robbed while playing, people forming little gangs for turf wars, and generally the game being public nuisance. Sound familiar?
Since this is A Certain Scientific Railgun it turns out there is an added supernatural element to the story with a little boy who can see the future that keeps trying to use the app to warn people of disasters about to occur but that is neither here nor there. What I think is very interesting is how well Kazuma Kamachi was able to take trends present in 2014 and extrapolate them to their logical next step.
At the time of the Treasure Hunting App story-line, there were quite a few Augmented Reality games on the market. There was a whole slew of games before 2016 and even a documentary on a ARG game but few people outside of the hardcore gamers and rabid early adopters knew anything about this phenomenon. Even Ingress, which actually makes up a large amount of the backbone of Pokémon Go, was hardly even a blip on the average person’s radar and it was the biggest augmented reality game around until Pokémon Go. If you want proof just look at the controversy surrounding the game play hubs in Pokémon Go. They are the same places that people were playing Ingress but when the scale of the player base expanded exponentially it all changed. Now sites and businesses that never noticed that they were Ingress hubs were flooded with People playing Pokémon Go. Thanks to the Pokemon name the public took notice in a way they would have never done in the past with something like Ingress.
The author saw the Augmented Reality games at the time and was able to scale up those ideas to a game as popular as Pokémon Go with all the problems that would entail. He then added some more fantastical elements to make it fit in with the general tone of the series. So while he did not predict the exact idea that a monster catching game would explode in a worldwide trend that would capture the hungry souls of social media, press, and public at large he did make some eerily accurate predictions of what problems would come up with a game that popular.
If nothing else that glimpse into the future of how technology will shape our lives is what all the best science fiction aims to do. If you see that from something like Mr. Robot, Black Mirror, or Person of Interest I don’t think you would be extremely surprised but when it comes from A Certain Scientific Railgun it throws you for a loop. Good job Kazuma Kamachi!