By J.A.. Coleman
Fun, exciting games never cease to have their place in our everyday lives. Who could expect anything less from our society? We breathe entertainment and fun. Americans go through more effort to enjoy themselves than anyone else in the world. Whether participating in seasonal gaming activities like Fantasy Football, placing bets on competitive sports, or the numerous games simulating warfare and combat, there are literally hundreds of ways that we find to amuse ourselves--hundreds of ways to satisfy our insatiable appetite for play. A person with a creative mind can literally become a billionaire in one month just by creating the new craving for gamers. With tools like social media and the Internet, only moments lie between everyone on the globe being locked-in to the same idea and wanting it. That takes us to the latest craze: a craze that has gripped not only America, but the entire planet. I had to investigate. I never like being a killjoy, but what I have found should be an eye-opener for Christians caught up in it.
In three weeks, this game, downloadable on your mobile device, has become the most widespread, popular game in America. Overtaking Twitter in just two weeks in terms of daily users, this game is really causing a stir. It literally is dominating peoples’ lives. It’s the new popular choice of how to spend free time. I personally have seen all ages deeply interested. Keep in mind that when I say “deeply interested,” I mean with their head facing their mobile device, eyes locked in, completely unaware of their surroundings, except for what they are seeing via their mobile device. That’s what I saw from an ignorant standpoint, not knowing how the game worked or what was really going on. I was especially shocked to see that even the more tech-savvy seniors were enjoying the game, as well. I would commonly see people huddled in circles in public parks or areas, but not even talking to each other. Most commonly, I have seen people walking by, in groups and single file, all the while not taking their eyes off their phones. Not surprisingly, the one age group in particular that has become addicted to this game more than any other age bracket is the Millennials, specifically ages 25-34. Statistically, they are the heaviest users. To be sure, Pokemon is back--and more popular than ever! That’s where Pokemon-Go gets its origin. It’s an old game with a new spin: cards coming to life with the assistance of cutting edge technology and Satellite assist. What’s really wrong with ‘Pokemon Go’?
There are some obvious physical dangers that accompany this game because of the way it is played. Already, in the short time it has been available, there have been countless cases of accidents, injuries, and yes, even deaths. I would think this common sense, but not using your eyes when physically moving comes with some pitfalls. Two people falling off of a cliff in California should serve as one adequate example. As if drunk-driving, texting, tweeting, snapping, and talking weren't enough of a problem for the highways of America, now there are people playing the game as they drive. Certain areas of the country are already posting signs warning people braving the highways to be wary. For good reason, too, as there have already been numerous vehicular accidents because of people not paying attention while they drive. They’d rather play the game instead. Cops across the country have been called out much more because of Pokemon-Go players trespassing onto private property as well as breaking curfews. Whole streets have been blocked in parts of this country because of volumes of players crossing at the same time. Some well-known locations have completely banned the game from being played there. Internet servers are beginning to shut down due to the volume of players at the same time. But that in itself doesn’t make the game bad; it just makes it dangerous and shows its obviously addictive nature.
The greater problem that I have and I believe that all Christians should have is the hazards it brings spiritually. As Christians, being in and not of the world, we have to be very aware of what’s going on in our culture so that we can steer clear from evils and hold to God’s standards and calling for our lives. We should all be aware that one of Satan’s greatest tools to distract Christians from their primary goals in life is through the cultural highway. I believe Pokemon-Go is an excellent example of how many Christians will compromise true dignity and integrity for fun and games and even become a part of the evil hidden inside them. Yes, there is hidden evil in Pokemon. The truth is that Christians have been making little compromises like Pokemon-Go for so long that Pokemon-Go may not seem that bad at all. Actually, on the surface it even looks healthy when those playing are getting physical exercise at the same time. But that’s not what it’s really about, and that’s exactly how Satan works. Coupling some good on the surface with a greater evil beneath is his specialty. If we are truly Christian, our worldview should dictate that we measure everything against a set standard given by God. This standard for Christians is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Only about 4% of American’s have a truly biblical worldview. The rest who claim to be Christian but are not anchored to the Bible, while playing Pokemon-Go, are thus following a satanic worldview instead of a Christian worldview. You might ask, where does the Bible mention Pokemon-Go? Well, it doesn’t specifically mention it, in much the same way it doesn’t mention elephants, bacon, or Budweiser. We therefore need to use scriptural guidelines to examine Pokemon-Go and other potentially dangerous activities. These eight guidelines from Scripture are a good starting point. Number 1: What belief system or doctrine is evident or being advocated? Number 2: What philosophies and values are evident? Number 3: What is the origin of the power or the energy? Number 4: Are psychic, occult, satanic, or New Age symbols incorporated? Number 5: Are your thoughts or imaginations steered in a wholesome or unwholesome direction? Number 6: Does it glorify violence or evil? Number 7: Does it depict immorality or arouse lustful desires? Number 8: Does it draw you closer to God or build godly character? With these thoughts in mind, let’s consider Pokemon.
Pokemon originates from Japan and is derived from the words ‘pocket monster’. After its origin in 1995, Pokemon had become truly popular in America by 1999. Originally translated and distributed in America via cards by a company known for dungeons and dragons as well as creating and distributing other occult material, Wizards of the Coast made the original 150 cards available to Americans. The cards were designed to fascinate and enthrall elementary age children. They quickly became addicting. There are now 729 cards available, including the original 150. So how does Pokemon stack up against the test mentioned above? First, Pokemon attempts to portray supernatural powers. Cards known as energy cards clearly promote a pantheistic power for the occult. Consider that. For instance, the "Abra" character is said to have the ability to read minds as well as identify impending danger and gives powers of teleportation to get you to safety. "Misty" is another character, sensually-dressed and with an attraction for one of the main characters, "Ash Ketchum." "Brock" also has an infatuation with the opposite sex, while "Jesse" and "James" are cross-dressers. These are just a few examples, and while they do not represent all the game offers, it seems that characters are sexually-preoccupied, thieving, cross-dressing, obnoxious, vindictive, self-centered, and stubborn. These are not the character traits a Christian wants or needs, for they do not measure up to biblical standards. Pokemon-Go takes these characters and traits to the next level as perhaps the worst danger is unveiled: this danger is the conditioning of the mind to get into an altered state of reality, which is called an augmented reality. Virtual worlds are becoming more and more common in gaming. The end goal is the same for Pokemon-Go as it was for the cards and video game. Pokemon-Go uses your Smartphone camera to lead each player to different places, called Poke stops. The battle is then taken to the streets rather than the living room as players compete to capture, train, and battle Pokemon characters in a quest to become the greatest Pokemon trainer. Players battle and capture “pocket monsters” using their mobile phones. When the app is opened, a map is shown of the area immediately around the player. Iconic landmarks such as statues and well-known buildings are used as Pokestops. Then players walk up to the Pokestops and tap the icon on the screen, where they are rewarded with experience points or items. Depending on which Pokestop they are near, the icon may appear to be relevant. For instance, near a church the item may be dressed in clerical garb; near a graveyard, a ghostly Pokemon may appear. Of course, the end goal is always the same: to catch the Pokemon.
The obvious occult elements within Pokemon are alarming. Pokemon has supernatural powers facilitated by energy cards that can make your Pokemon bigger and more powerful. The source of the power is the pantheistic occult, and clearly not the supernatural power of God. Two cards, “Abra” and “Kadabra,” make this clear; but there are likely more. “Abracadabra” is a word long associated with occult magic. According to Webster’s Dictionary, it means “a word used to summon magical powers.” These cards use it for the same purpose. It’s no accident that these are psychic cards used for their magical powers. ‘Abra’ uses mind-reading and teleportation to become virtually invincible. On the "Kadabra" card are clear occult symbols. The character has a pentagram on his forehead and an SSS emblazoned on his chest. He is giving the satanic salute with his left hand. Does this sound like something you’d want to be associated with as a Christian? These all have strong occult significance and should be avoided by Christians (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). This is a game that does not in ANY way glorify God, but rather points to the opposite. Playing this game leads down the seductive path set by Satan, begging Christians to believe its subtle principles. Pokemon was designed to be a stepping stone to harder occult-oriented games like “Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons,” which was produced and trade-marked by the same company. The Bible clearly says that we are to abhor evil and cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9). Pokemon is subtle. It uses subtle images, suggestions, and values to condition our minds to think differently than we should as Christians. We are clearly told to filter our thoughts through Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
It’s really sad, in my opinion, that our time, being our most precious commodity, is so frivolously wasted. As Christians, redeeming the short time we have here should be our highest priority and our utmost concern. This game is alarming, but it is still redundantly similar to many before it. How many big-time games have come along in the last twenty years that swept up the youth in this country into a frenzy? This is only one more segment in a prolonged saga about Americans' hearts and love for entertainment. It’s only another indicator light blinking “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” This is obvious when a discounted TV on Black Friday creates a line a quarter of a mile long, but the line to the altar in our church is invisible. We can find Wal-Mart today, but not the church; Pokemon, but not God. Getting up at three in the morning isn’t hard when we could get a cheaper piece of our entertainment, but it seems to be awfully difficult to get to church by ten. It’s no wonder that what would have been considered obvious evil at one time is considered healthy and beneficial today. Christians have paid for their entertainment with their biblical discernment and common sense. As Christians, let’s spend more time in God’s Word studying what God wants us to (Phillipians 4:8). If we're going to be tracking something, let's track Jesus Christ, learn more of Him, and let Him be our master trainer.