Mark Fairweather Tall
Can we learn anything from the 'Pokémon Go' craze?
Have you “Gotta catch ‘em all”? Are you Bulbasaur, Charmeleon or Pikachu? Can you throw a PokeBall? Have you any idea what I am talking about? If you do, then maybe you are one of more than 100 million people worldwide who have downloaded the Pokémon Go app to their phone. Even if you haven’t, you may well have seen people walking around with their smart phone in front of their face. Pokémon Go is a mobile game that encourages people to find and catch pretend figures (called ) using real world locations. Different creatures hide in locations suited to their species. So, if you are looking for a water species like a ‘magicarp’ or ‘squirtle’ you are most likely to find them in locations where there is real water. You can find Pokémon in a variety of places like on grass, the pavement or in the air and when you come across a creature you throw a ‘PokeBall’ in an attempt to capture it. Users can catch over 700 different species of Pokémon as they gather at different real-life local landmarks where the Pokémon appear.
People point out both the positives and negatives in the game. On the plus side, people argue that it gets people out into the fresh air taking exercise as they walk around their locality. Against that, others have been quick to point out the dangers of people concentrating so much on their phones that they are oblivious to the environment as they cross roads without looking. One woman even had to be rescued from the sea as she got into trouble trying to find one of the creatures.
Whether for good or bad, there are people who devote hours to the game with what could even be described as a ‘religious zeal’ in order to make progress in the game. Reflecting on this makes we wonder if there is something we can learn from such enthusiasts. Let me suggest a couple of things.
1) In Isaiah 55:6 we read: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” The invitation earlier in the chapter is for those who have no resources of their own to come to drink and eat. This invitation is to not simply to supply physical needs but satisfy a person’s whole being. There is a choice – to seek and call on him while he is near or to keep your distance and not respond. Perhaps those of us who believe God reveals himself to us today can learn from the enthusiasm of those dedicating themselves to Pokémon Go. They are giving time, energy and passion in pursuit of their goal. They are actively seeking while Pokémon are near. What about us? Are we doing the same for the Lord? Are we actively seeking him with a great desire in our hearts to find him?
2) The slogan for the Pokémon Go game is “Gotta catch ‘em all”. It’s a great slogan and one that is far from out of place in the Christian context. The intensity of the invitation in the early verse of Isaiah 55 is complimented by the parable Jesus told of the Great Banquet. Those who were first invited to the banquet refused to come at the appropriate time. The king told his servants to go out onto the roads and the country lanes and to make them come in so that his house will be full. God has made all the preparations and he will find people to respond to his invitation. On calling the first disciples, Jesus says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This leads me to ask the question of myself, how passionate am I about inviting others to seek the Lord? Would I do well to have a slogan for my faith that says: “Gotta catch ‘em all”?
Of course, Pokémon Go may well be just a temporary craze. After all, Isaiah 55:2 asks the question: “Why spend money on what is not bread and your labour on what does not satisfy?” It cannot satisfy in the long term. There is only one who can do that: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near.” And that is a great invitation for us… and for others.