In the News
Washington, D.C.—In what’s being called the future of gaming, Pokemon Go players are using smartphones to “capture” digital creatures at real-life locations. The free game uses augmented reality to blend digital images with someone’s view of the real world.
Since its July 6 release, Pokemon Go has become a global phenomenon, shooting to the top of charts and boosting Nintendo’s market value by $9 billion. Nostalgia accounts for some of the game’s popularity, as teenagers and young adults re-engage with favorite characters from childhood.
“It’s what your dream has always been as a kid, to be able to catch Pokemon on your own,” says Joey Levy, 19.
“I feel like I’m actually in it with my Pokeballs, moving around, and I’m winning freaking Pokemon,” says Sana Lynn, 27. “It’s like I’m part of the cartoon. It’s so cool.”
On the plus side, Pokemon Go gets players outside, keeps them active, and encourages socialization with other gamers. But distracted players have been injured while driving and walking, and others have been robbed or caught trespassing. Two players survived after falling off an ocean cliff, and one law professor warns that “death by Pokemon Go is coming.”
That hasn’t stopped gamers from seeking out new PokeStops, or in-game landmarks that animated creatures can be lured into visiting. Some sites, including the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., have asked people to stop catching Pokemon on its premises.
A 37-year-old woman says she didn’t mean any disrespect by playing the game there. “It’s not like we came here to play, but gotta catch ’em all,” she said, referring to the game’s slogan.
Some churches are advertising their PokeStop status, hoping to connect with millennials—one-third of whom are religiously unaffiliated. Yet playing during worship will likely be discouraged. “That’s the dilemma for churches trying to ‘catch ’em all,’” writes pastor Aaron Earls.
Last Sunday, Earls announced to his young-adult students, “Don’t play during class unless you see a rare Pokémon. Then you have to let me know, so I can catch it, too.”
Sources: chicagotribune.com, washingtonpost.com, vox.com, foxnews.com, time.com, wsj.com, fortune.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
Have you played Pokemon Go yet? If so, what’s your opinion of the game? Why do you think it appeals to so many people? Does the game have a high potential for addiction? How long do you expect the craze to last, and why?
If you’ve played the game, where have you ventured? Who have you met? What safety precautions are you taking?
To you, what are the biggest pros and cons of a game like this? Is it good to get people outside, even if they’re still staring at a screen? Explain. Do you consider this a safe way to meet other people who share your interests?
Why is nostalgia such a strong force? In this troubled world, what are the benefits of being reminded of better or simpler times? What programs, games, songs, or celebrities spark the best memories from your childhood, and why? Where do you turn when you need an “escape” from reality and your day-to-day problems?
In your opinion, are the dangers of playing Pokemon Go being sensationalized? Why or why not? Do you think the game is any more distracting than other things people do while on their phones?
What types of places, if any, do you think should be off-limits for playing Pokemon Go—or for being on your phone, in general? Where do you draw the line between wanting to stay connected and showing respect by not using technology?
How do you feel about churches promoting themselves as PokeStops? Is it okay for religious organizations to capitalize on secular trends like this? Why or why not? If young people are being drawn to church buildings because of Pokemon Go, how might Christians welcome and engage them?
Do you view evangelism as a “catch ’em all” type of mission? Explain. What strategies do you use to fish for people and to show them Jesus’ love?
What might it be like if people pursued Jesus the way they’re pursuing Pokemon characters? How can you share the appeal of Jesus with other people who might not realize they need him?
Scripture links: Ecclesiastes 7:10; Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 16:15; 1 Corinthians 9:19-27; Colossians 2:8; and Titus 2:6-8.
STEPHANIE MARTIN, A WRITER AND EDITOR IN COLORADO, HAS TWO TEENAGE DAUGHTERS