The newest game trend in mobile gaming is a game called Pokémon Go. It has been developed by Nintendo based off of older versions of the Pokémon games.
Pokémon Go is an app that is free to download. The player then is required to explore their areas, towns, cities and gather virtual supplies and “catch” imaginary Pokémon on their screen. The term for this type of game and playing style is called augmented reality. It works by using the phone’s GPS and camera to lead the player to the locations of the Pokémon.
And it sounds like all fun and games… Until someone gets hurt, right?
Within a few days of the release, Pokémon Go has risen to the top of the charts for the most downloaded game. During that time there have been a series of reported injuries. It reminds me of when the Wii came out and there were reports of broken TVs. People playing this game get so sucked into the virtual reality that they stop paying attention to reality!
The dangers of this game come in many different accident forms. The cause is clear, rejecting immediate reality and embracing the virtual challenge of collecting as many of the Pokémon as possible. The effect is immediate in the form of bodily injury while physically chasing an imaginary picture on a screen in reality. Another recently reported effect is that accidents are being because of those driving and playing at the same time.
The Catholic Response
The game in itself, as far as I know, is morally neutral. The way that you choose to play the game is where the morality of it comes into play. Taking some time to play a game and meet friends? Great! The problem comes when reality is ignored and with that lives can be in danger, especially if you play while driving. This game says it’s augmented reality but have you ever seen anyone who is aware of reality walk directly into walls and trees? Let’s look at what reality means.
Reality: something that constitutes a real or actual thing, as distinguished from something that is merely apparent. In our world, there are concrete realities such as stairs and walls. There are also spiritual realities that can be completely overlooked if our hearts and minds are not open to them.
Augmented reality: an enhanced image or environment as viewed on a screen or other display, produced by overlaying computer-generated images, sounds, or other data on a real-world environment. While this has a real world environment on the screen, our brains focus on the augmented part and glaze over the reality part. It reduces our interaction with the real world to the size of a cell phone screen.
On a good note, there have been reports that the search for Pokémon leads people to churches. Hopefully, it will lead those playing to put the phone away and enter into the spiritual reality that we need so much. God uses all things for His purposes and this can be an effective tool to encounter others around the churches. If you see someone in pursuit, remember to invite them in, talk to them about it, and make it an opportunity for evangelization.
Playing a game for entertainment isn’t wrong. But if playing a game causes you to ignore the world around you, it becomes a problem. Pay attention to the reality around you so you can encounter the world, concretely and spiritually. If we’re too focused on Pidgey, we might miss the Holy Spirit.
- Do you think this generation finds it difficult to distinguish between reality and virtual reality? How do you think spending time on social media contributes to a false sense of “real life”?
- Do you ever find yourself so involved in gaming that you miss out on real life activities? Discuss a few tactics to put the game down!
- If Pokémon Go is leading people to Churches, how can your Church welcome those that are entering in?