Pokemon and your church?

July 14, 2016
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In the midst of gun violence tragedy in this country and in South Sudan, back channel chatter of church communicators was also abuzz about--a new game for mobile phones from Nintendo. Called Pokemon Go!, it's a free download that purports to get people walking and looking at their phones for a myriad of creatures, first  superimposed on a real-time map and then viewed through the screen as though floating in the direction you look.

The data for this international game comes from several years of user contributions about 'interesting places' to another game, Ingress. Google maps meets geocaching meets Nintendo game. Communicators who knew Ingress were ready--they knew that one of the three 'portals' suggested for user input were churches. And when the game was released that proved true--many churches are listed as stops or 'gyms' where players roam in hopes of finding more or interacting with their virtual creatures.

Most church folk had no idea. And really, how often do we have groups of teens and tweens, their parents, and millennials wandering around church yards if not members? Opportunities for hospitality as being offered by some churches include time in air-conditioning, cool water, even a changing station.

At the beginning of the week Forward Movement director Scott Gunn hinted on Facebook that they were pulling together some resources for churches and game players and asked for user-contributed photos. Those resources were published this morning. Do you recognize some of the images? (Kudos to St. Peter's!)

Concerns include the game requiring signing over a lot of your phone's privacy, walking into danger while watching only the screen, and some petty criminals with schemes, among others. It is also of note that the game is harder to find in black neighborhoods.

No one knows how long a fad lasts, but by Wednesday game downloads in the U.S. had topped 25 million-- with time spent on the game surpassing that spent on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat (USA Today).

A quick survey of a few metro churches found game stops at St. Mark's in St. Louis and Emmanuel (both with two), Advent, and All Saints. No stops at St. John's Tower Grove or Ascension. The local news in Kirksville reported that Trinity Church is one of six stops they'd found in town.

Please leave a comment--thumbs up or thumbs down--and how your church experiences Pokemon Go.

(Screenshot of your editor's desktop and a Pokemon creature that curiously resembles a dustball. I'm sure that is pure coincidence.)

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