TITLE: To “Pokémon-GO” or Not to “Pokémon-Go”?
Written by: PCY
Date: July 14th, 2016

A Game App Gone Viral

It has taken the world by storm. In just one week, the app has been downloaded millions of times, with the United States alone having over 21 million players. Although launched only in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, game enthusiasts all over the world have found creative ways to download the game that has gone viral. If anyone has a concern about people being glued to their phone devices while walking on the streets or chatting in community places, this latest fad has amplified such concerns. Police in many cities across Canada have started to broadcast their warnings about the dangers of playing this game. In Vancouver, police warn players to be careful not to venture into private properties. In Quebec, one player crashed into a cop car while playing the game. San Francisco police also cautioned people from forgetting that they are still in the real world when playing the game, and to be careful of not venturing into strange and unknown places or to get hurt accidentally. Two men from Encinitas California were so engrossed with the game that they fell off a cliff!

In case you are unaware, the game was 20 years in the making. In 1996, John Hanke co-created the “Meridian 59” which was a “massively multiplayer online game.” After several levels of development, Hanke managed to raise $25 million from a few investors which include Google, Nintendo, and the Pokemon company to prepare to launch the Pokémon Go game app. He didn’t create it overnight. It took a lot of iterations, baby step developments, and an entrepreneurial drive to make his dream come true. This massively addictive game has captured the attention of the gaming world. Let me provide some guidance on this increasingly popular game that is taking the world by storm.


1) It’s a Fad

Fads will come and go. What is popular now may be easily overtaken by something else tomorrow. From the Cabbage Patch dolls to the Rubik’s Cube; the Tamagotchi to the Furbies; like food that had just been microwaved, what is hot today will easily get cold tomorrow. Like the saying, what goes up must come down, the fad will gravitate downward after reaching its peak. In line with the popular YOLO culture, whether it is a fad or not, teens will just enjoy the moment and not worry too much about anything else. While parents will likely be concerned about the negative effects, it is far better to know what the fad is all about before dismissing it outright.

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Eccl 2:11)

2) It’s Online Play and Outdoor Exercise Rolled Into One

One of the criticisms against most online gaming devices like the XBox and the PS3 or 4 is that it leads to potato couch kids, where kids exercise their minds and fingers more than their overall bodies. Many parents worry about the lack of physical exercises that lead to some civic groups promoting the “ParticipACTION” campaign to increase more play time instead of screen time. With Pokemon GO, we have people literally playing and walking at the same time. It’s the freedom to have both online engagement and physical exercises. Of course, my main concern would be physical safety with regard to making sure you don’t venture into strange places alone; infringe on private property; or put yourself in harm’s way on roads, public pavements, or community spaces. When you play, always beware of your environment and surroundings. While you are watching your tiny screen, strangers might be lurking around you and watching you.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

3) It’s Dangerously Addictive

Of all the factors I have, this is perhaps the most troubling one. We already have to do battle with the rising amount of screen time kids are gorging on. With this latest Pokemon GO app, it will only make it worse. Several spoofs have been created to laugh at the ridiculous things people do to play the game. It can be funny for some but not so for others. Once people get injured, it’s no fun. Playing the game can be momentarily fun but if accidents happen, the damage could be permanent. If you play, just beware. If you don’t still be aware. The best guidance I have is to make sure you get your main work done before getting into the game at all.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor 6:12)

4) Practice Self-Control

Whatever we do, do it in moderation. This is a biblical principle that we would be wise to follow. Don’t blame it on the game or external pressures. If we know ourselves, we would make sure that we do not cross our own personal boundaries. As the game has the potential of venturing into other people’s private spaces, learn to be respectful of the environment you are in. Just because you think it is fun does not grant you the license to trample on your neighbour’s lawn or garden beds. Always practice self-control BEFORE you start. Do not let yourself be controlled by the demands of the game. Searching for Pokémons in the middle of the night is a definite no-no.

“Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5, KJV)

5) False Sense of Community

For all the talk about camaraderie and good natured fun, remember that it is all a game. Any mention of it as some form of community disappears when there are no more Pokémons to be found. Do not be deceived into trying to build community with strangers. You never know if there are those with ulterior motives around. Building community must not be about coming together in the name of community. Just because people are doing the same kind of things does not mean they are united. They are just consumers of things while it lasts. Christian community is different. It is not based on some common interests. Neither is it dependent on the idol of community. It is based on love. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: “He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community.”

Don’t put the cart of community before the horse of love.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Ps 133:1)

For the rest of us, do take time to read and to share this article, before the game launches in Canada.

With care,