Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past couple of weeks, you have encountered the phenomenon of Pokemon Go. Not only is it the biggest mobile game in history, with over 26 million people playing on any given day, but it seems to be surpassing monoliths like Twitter and Snapchat in downloads and users. Since I’m passionate about technology and our souls, I thought I’d throw my two cents in the ring.
A big caveat first though: I’ve never played the game—the old or new version, and in fact, have never really been into video games. I have my own digital downfalls, like surfing the web—reading, perusing, posting, getting lost in hyperlinks etc. and the truth is that screen-time, no matter what your pleasure, has a similar effect on our brains, something I’ve covered extensively in The Wired Soul.
So what do we need to know about Pokemon Go? I won't go into detail here about what the game is, but if you know as little as I did two days ago, check out this blog—it gives a great overview:
And for you gamers—so you can get out there and play as quickly as possible, I’m going to summarize my thoughts in a table of pros and cons.
So there you have it--some great reasons to play, but some equally important reasons to do so with caution and balance.
Having said that, the biggest issue with any kind of digital engagement, is the relationship it has to the state of our souls. As I point out in The Wired Soul, we can learn a lot about what really matters to us by looking at the practices we keep (for a great teaching by James Smith on this, click here) .
For example, what does our engagement (or lack thereof) with practices like prayer, Scripture reflection, community or compassion say about the status Christ has in our hearts? On the flip side, we may feel that video games or social media or web surfing and streaming or television don't captivate our heart, but an honest look at the hours we spend online can tell us something altogether different. Beyond our practices revealing something about what we really desire, these things actually have the power to shape our souls, often in ways we simply aren’t aware of.
The key here is the word “practices.” For example, playing any video game a couple of times a week for an hour isn’t a practice, but an activity that we do just for fun. But if we care about our souls, we have to go beyond the pros and cons of Pokemon Go or any other endeavor in which we invest our time to ask these two questions:
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Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and a professor for Fuller Theological Seminary, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.