You have probably seen a new craze hit the gaming and social media world in the last couple of weeks: Pokemon Go.
It seems everyone is playing it! News articles keep popping up in my feed about the game and friends have been posting cartoon pictures of small creatures they have captured.
It hasn’t been released in the UK yet, so I haven’t played it yet, but when it comes out I probably will. What I have found intriguing about this game is the amount of articles about Pokemon Go that have a common theme running throughout. That theme is community.
In an article on the Forbes website, writer Erik Kain says:
“With all the rancor and division in this world, all the tragic shootings, all the mistrust, seeing people from all walks of life get up off their couches, leave their homes, and go out into the world to hunt for Pokémon is something truly remarkable. It gives me faith in my fellow human beings, and in the power of video games to be a force for good—even a force for getting some exercise.”
“But the game is drawing people together in a time when every other force seems to be tearing us apart.”
Almost overnight, this game is drawing people together when it feels like everything else is tearing the world apart. You only have to look on Reddit to read the stories of how this game is creating links between people.
This shouldn’t surprise us. We are social creatures, designed and created to be in community and fellowship with one another. Being isolated and singing along with Simon and Garfunkel, “I am a rock, I am an Island” will ultimately destroy us.
Therefore, what Pokemon Go is illustrating to us is the deep hunger and need for community. On the surface it looks like a fun game, but deep down it reveals a desire in our hearts. We want to be part of a team or tribe, to feel included, to connect with people, to share our achievements and to be together while the world feels like its falling apart. This is nothing new. In the depths of fandom and Comic Con conventions, we see the strength of coming together and being united over a common theme.
Now this game won’t appeal to everyone, not everyone enjoys playing these type of games. But my hope is that we might see the depth of this craze rather than assuming its just another video game that is “wasting time“. In particular I hope Christians might see the potential this could bring.
It should at least prompt some questions, (especially for those who are playing/going to play it):
- What are the needs of this community and how can we meet them?
- How can we make meaningful connections with people in this community?
- What opportunities does this give us to love and serve people?
And lastly, When is this game actually going to come to the UK?? (OK, maybe the last question isn’t as important.)
To be honest, these questions are ones we should be asking any community we are entering (our street, our city, our football club, our gaming group.) And if this game is hitting the headlines claiming to create new communities, helping people feel included and connected, then for those of us who have a Christian faith and are naturally drawn to this type of thing, we should certainly be engaging with this.
Furthermore, if we are part of this rather then simply dismissing these communities, then it gives us an opportunity to point towards a greater truth. Because deep down, we know these type of things won’t last. I don’t mean to be pessimistic or to rain on the Pokemon parade, but like most things it cannot truly fulfil us in the long-term. It will knit us together for a while, but it cannot bind us forever. And that’s OK, the things of this earth can never do that.
So we can enjoy the fruit it offers now, the community it shapes and the people it brings together while continually pointing towards a better hope and a lasting community that we have in the Gospel.
For more reading: here are two American blogposts that I have seen which may help churches to engage with Pokemon Go, especially when it comes to the UK:
Simon Fogg: 14 Ways Your Church Can Use Pokémon Go Right Now
Millennial Evangelical: 3 Reasons Pastors Should Care About Pokémon Go