It all started because of a dream. One about Pokemons, or more specifically, evolving a Pidgeotto into a Pidgeot.
Admittedly, I was evolving some of my Pokemons before hitting the sack, but to actually dream about the virtual monsters was another thing altogether. I remember waking up abruptly in the middle of the night—bemused and slightly worried.
I shared my silly dream with family and friends the next morning in mock horror, adding that it was probably a sign that I was playing too much of Pokemon Go. Many concurred in amusement, some suggesting that I might be getting addicted to the augmented-reality game. Fair enough, I replied, maybe I should delete the app.
For the record, I was about three weeks into playing the game, and had just reached level 14. Of the 158 Pokemons I had caught (not including those I had exchanged with the professor for candy), there were rare ones like Electrabuzz, Dratini, and Jynx. And thanks to my quest that fateful night to evolve my Pokemons, I now had a couple of Raticates, a Golduck, a Pidgeot, and a Weepinbell.
But the dream, along with some earlier instances, felt a little disconcerting. For one, I’ve never really been a “games” person, so the amount of time I was investing in Pokemon Go, was starting to surprise even myself. Second, as much as the game had served as a useful conversation starter with people whom I rarely spoke to, I realized the converse was true as well. I had, on a number of occasions, intentionally chose to spin Pokestops, set up lures and catch Pokemons, instead of engage in a good conversation with friends.
Third, since I started playing the game, a number of well-meaning friends had sent me articles and text messages about the dangers of playing Pokemon Go. One asked if there were Bible verses which categorically stated that playing Pokemon Go was wrong, while some commented that it was “satanic” as well as “addictive”. (I find the term “satanic” a tricky position to take, but that’s for another day. It was more the latter reason I could identify with.)
So, I decided it was time to take a break. Stop playing Pokemon Go for a couple of days.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t suffer from any withdrawal symptoms or feel the need to click on the app. But just before I could give myself a pat on the back, I heard myself say, “Hang on, didn’t you say you wanted to delete the app?”
That’s when the hemming and hawing begin. “But I’m not addicted. Look, I didn’t even touch the app for two days! Just leave it as it is. Maybe my friends will forget. Just don’t talk about deleting it anymore.” I almost convinced myself—till one friend followed up and asked if I had deleted it as planned.
I didn’t want to admit it to her, but the reality was that I struggled to let my Pokemons go. (Yes, I know they’re not real and it sounds pathetic.) Each time I scrolled through the list of Pokemons I had, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride.
The longer I sat on the decision however, the more annoyed I got with myself. It was also starting to become an issue of keeping my word. “Now, if I don’t delete the app, it’s just going to show that I’m really addicted. Just delete the game and move on with life,” I finally told myself.
So, on a bright and cheery Monday morning, I mustered up whatever resolve I had at the point and deleted the app. Almost immediately, I felt relieved, liberated, and proud. There, I had finally deleted the app. Who said I was addicted? Free from the crutches of Pokemon Go, I found myself using my time a lot more productively each day . . . not true.
Well initially, yes. I did make a conscious effort to use my free time more effectively. Instead of fiddling with the app and trying to spin as many Pokestops while on the train commute to work each morning, I read my Bible. And unlike the past, I would intentionally put my phone aside whenever I met up with friends for a meal or to chit-chat so that I could give my full attention to the conversations that were taking place.
But it didn’t last. Over time, I found myself reverting back to my previous past-time before the arrival of Pokemon Go—watching YouTube videos and scrolling through the newsfeeds on my Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Contrary to what I believed, deleting Pokemon Go did not lead to a better use of my free time. Because it was never about Pokemon Go in the first place. The reality was simply this: I had a propensity to waste time. Pokemon Go or not, I would always be finding something to get distracted by as long as I didn’t solve my root issue—valuing things of the world above things of God.
The game was merely a convenient scapegoat I had blamed for my own lack of discipline and failure to prioritize what was really important. Sure, deleting the app may have worked initially and may be worth considering (for some) but there are many other things in this world like it. Things that are seemingly good, like exercise, food or even work, could be just as “dangerous” to some of us.
Those who play Pokemon Go are not any better off or worse off from those who don’t play it. What each of us needs to do is to honestly ask ourselves what are the things that rob us from spending time with God, delighting in and enjoying Him—and why. Instead of finding fault with things, let’s devote our attention and energy to growing in our appreciation and love for God. Then, it doesn’t matter what comes after Pokemon Go, we’d still be rooted in our faith.
Let’s not give Pokemon Go all the credit.