If you’ve been paying attention the last few days, you’ve probably noticed people running around your neighborhood with their noses in their phones. The world, it seems, has gone crazy for a new game called Pokémon Go, and Christian parents are doubtlessly wondering what this game is and whether it’s safe for their child to play.
So what is Pokémon Go? And how do we, as Christian parents, think wisely and discerningly about it?
Pokémon Go is a new breed of video game called “augmented reality.” Players walk around — looking at a virtual map on their smartphones that corresponds with the real world — to capture the magical, imaginary creatures known as Pokémon (short for “Pocket Monsters”). Once players snare enough digital critters and gain sufficient experience, they can challenge others at virtual Pokémon Gyms (locations where players gather to battle).
What are Pokémon?
Short for “Pocket Monsters”, Pokémon are creatures from a series of videogames created in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri and the Nintendo Company. Tajiri, who was avid about collecting insects in his youth, allegedly wanted to design a game where players could amass animated monsters in a similar fashion. The resulting Pokémon games have their player travel a fictional world while catching and battling various Pokémon. The series has been wildly successful and remains a staple of Nintendo to this day.
On the plus side, Pokémon Go encourages active movement. It’s not a game your child can sit on the couch and play for hours on end. Instead, it requires walking through the environment around you, looking at the map to identify where Pokémon might be lurking.
But that upside is connected to the game’s biggest downside, too: Wandering around staring at a phone isn’t the safest activity. In the two weeks since the game was released, we’ve heard stories of people walking off cliffs, getting trapped in a mine, and having a car accident. Unsuspecting players have even been lured into areas where they’ve been assaulted and robbed.
The game eats battery life and data – be sure to check your data plan, or your next phone bill will be insane!
Pokémon Go represents an intriguing paradigm shift for video games. For parents, though, it’s just the latest opportunity we have to think wisely about how our families interact with entertainment media. This challenge is new, but our job remains the same as it’s always been: setting wise, informed, appropriate boundaries for our children.