Pokemon Go is a new mobile game that has already become a cultural phenomenon. According to app analytics specialist Similar Web, over 5.16 percent of all Android phones had installed the app just 2 days after the release.
Many news sources have already started reporting the pros and cons of downloading such a device. People are enjoying the fact that it encourages users to get out of the house and visit places like parks, libraries and even churches. It encourages people to go out and make friends with people in person. Isn’t that a complaint that many people have about video games? That you can make true friends over text or mic?
The news has also shared many of the dark sides of Pokemon Go. Stories of players being robbed, dead bodies being found, and privacy issues dominates the headlines. GPS constantly tracks your location and has full access to your G-mail account and emails. This does raise serious concerns about what information you are allowing other people to access. But, in full disclosure, Pokemon Go isn’t the only app to take advantage of that type of information so if you feel comfortable with it, that’s your decision. Just be aware of the information that you are giving them.
Our ministry Apolomedia have different goals when it comes to media and video games. We don’t want to just focus on the dangers and enjoyment of video games. Our desire is to talk about the spiritual messages in media and video games, and then compare it to God’s Word. By teaching a generation “how” to think, instead of “what” to think we believe they will make better decisions as to where they spend their time.
So, does Pokemon have spiritual messages? Now that’s a great question. In order to answer that, we’ll have to start from the very beginning. (Which, by the way we as Christians should do with the Word of God when answering questions!)
Pokemon was created in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri and his team. The game is centered on creatures called “Pokemon” which “Trainers” catch, train and battle with other “Trainers”. The idea of the game originally came from Tajiri’s love of insect collecting. Over the years the series has sold over 200 million copies.
While I was growing up many families I knew banned their children from the game because they believed that the game taught “evolution”. While the game does use the word “evolve” to describe when one animal-like Pokémon grows into a different Pokémon, there is debate as to whether it is more akin to metamorphosis than evolution because it happens rapidly and within a single “kind” of creature.
While on ministry in Japan my father had a very interesting conversation with one of the team members who was involved with the creation of the phenomenon. It turns out he is an ardent “Creationist” and Christian. As a matter of fact when I met him he was in the middle of creating the first ever Manga Bible! He told me first hand that he made sure that the animals didn’t evolve, that they in fact went through the process of metamorphosis. I believe this to be true from what you see from the early characters.
For example, a fish Pokémon doesn’t evolve into a bird Pokémon. It instead grows into a more robust, but nevertheless recognizable, version of itself. Similar to a caterpillar’s rapid transformation to a butterfly, they do not evolve slowly within a population, but experience rapid individual change.
More recent plot developments and theories, however, may re-introduce the concept of evolution as one Pokémon (Mew) is rumored to be the ancestor of all life including human life. You can also find fossils that are millions of years old, which does not line up with a young earth creationist point of view.
Another issue people have with the game is the use of magic. There are eighteen different Types of Pokemon which include Normal, Fighting, Flying, Poison, Ground, Rock, Bug, Ghost, Steel, Fire, Grass, Water, Electric, Psychic, Ice, Dragon, Dark and Fairy. Many people would site the similarities to New Age beliefs and the handheld games definitely have examples of that. In Pokemon X,Y, one character talks about her issues with the possibility of eternal life. No matter how “child friendly” a game may seem, they will have teachings that will not line up with the Word of God.
If you decide to let your children play Pokemon Go, please follow our safety tips.
Make sure they are not going out and exploring for Pokemon on their own. They may be targeted, may not be aware of their surroundings, or could disrupt places they shouldn’t be using a mobile device in.
Make sure they are not spending all their time playing Pokemon Go that they take away time doing other things. The average time a Pokemon Go user plays is 43 minutes a day. With all the server and battery issues that game has suffered, Nintendo will fix those problems which will result in those number going up.
Remember, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.
Use the game as an opportunity to talk with your children about the differences between the process of “metamorphosis” and a worm over time turning into a fish which turned into a rat-like creature, which turned into groundhog-like creature which eventually turned into a wolf-like creature to go back into the ocean to become a “Blue Whale”. Metamorphosis is a beautiful example of God’s Creative activity. There is no explanation how a caterpillar can turn into a “lump of jelly” which is fully aware of its surroundings to then turn into a butterfly!
You will bump into people playing Pokemon Go whether you play or not. They may walk right up to your church door. Will you greet them and share Christ’s love with them? Or will you shun them because they are playing such an “evil” game?
When Nintendo released Pokemon Go, it seems like the whole world listened, downloaded the app, and went out into the world. But please remember the ultimate voice we should be listening to, and that is Jesus Christ. He tells us to “Go” as well. Matthew 29:19a says
“GO therefore and make disciples of all nations”.
Will Christians have the same passion to “Go” as Pokemon fans have shown with the new app? Imagine that impact we could have if we said “Yes!”