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Why We Need Games like Pokemon Go

In today’s world, Pokemon are everywhere. And people walk for hours on end and visit places they don’t normally go to, well, catch these virtual pocket monsters. If you don’t see that happening, it’s probably because Pokemon Go hasn’t landed on your shores.

But trust me, it’s just a matter of time before Pokemadness unleashes. If you’re still clueless up to this point, Pokemon Go is a game that requires users to travel to find Pokemon. They show up on their phone screens when users are at different landmarks.

In the past weeks, the augmented-reality smartphone game has been launched in US, Australia, New Zealand, 26 European countries, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and most recently, Singapore. The response has been spectacular.

Since then, the app has been downloaded more than 30 million times. It is more popular than Tinder, has more daily users than Twitter and more engagement than Facebook.

If you’re one of those (like me) still anxiously waiting for your turn to catch ‘em all, the game would be launched in some 200 countries and regions around the world “relatively soon”, according to John Hanke, Chief Executive of Niantic, the company behind this megahit.

So what is it about this mobile game that has taken the world by storm? After all, it’s not the first game to make use of augmented reality (google Ingress, a location-based social game). Among other reasons, here’s one: Pokemon Go is the result of a brilliant marketing strategy that ties our heavy reliance on smartphones with our emotional connection to the franchise, which began some 20 years ago.

And since the launch of this overnight sensation, the stories that have arisen have been simply fascinating . . . and bizarre.

Not only have there been accounts of how Pokemon Go has helped to “prevent crimes”, including catching an attempted murder suspect, it led a girl to discover a dead body floating in a river and even brought to light a cheating boyfriend. Some reports even claimed that playing Pokemon Go had helped to fight mental illness (depression and social anxiety).

Of course, there have been just as many stories about the downsides of playing this game, which include individuals quitting their jobs, trespassing on private property, falling off cliffs, getting stuck in caves, and even getting robbed or shot.

Closer to home, one of my friends—who normally doesn’t exercise—ended up walking some 16 kilometers to catch Pokemon, and another told me she accidentally stepped on a dead rat because she was so engrossed in the game.

It’s pretty baffling isn’t it? The extent that some of us would go for a game. And in the face of all these stories, the most natural response may be to dismiss this whole thing as a fad or a silly app game and tell ourselves not to get too invested in it. Some of us might even go one step further to condemn the game entirely. After all, good Christians don’t waste our time on such meaningless activities.

Those concerns are certainly valid. But while there’s wisdom in guarding our time, affections and energy, could there be value in having games like Pokemon Go every so often?

Here’s why: It shows the extent human beings will go to for something we feel passionately about—our single-minded devotion to completing a task at hand, our ability to remain focused regardless of our surroundings and, our unwavering commitment to share this passion we have with others.

It’s a beautiful picture of dedication—especially if it’s channeled for the right purposes. Imagine if we adopted this same attitude to reach others for Christ?

Photo taken from YouTube Video

3 comments
  1. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble, and I regret to say this, but research into Pokemon tends to show that it has Satanic leanings, mostly symbolism.

    Reply
  2. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for your comment :) There are indeed different viewpoints even among the Christian community about the game and I respect that. I guess my main point is about how this game can showcase our devotion to a cause and we should channel that to our spiritual life as well.

    Reply

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