(Hit that music button!)
It seems like either you love it or you hate it. Perhaps you were consumed by it as a kid, as I was… I had the games, the cards, the movies, and even made it a bit of a sacred event to wake up early on Saturday morning to watch the tv show. It was a glorious time to be alive, and I really did catch em all. Something about it enamored my imagination, stirred my fancy, as those whimsical little creatures seemed to occupy the most ordinary of places, but could do some of the most extraordinary things. It may sound silly, but I think it’s exactly what I needed as a kid. Sure, I had plenty of other things to fill my time — reading, sports, friends, and endless shenanigans to be had in my back yard. But there was just something supremely cool about it, and in some way, I think it made me who I am today… not a Pokemon master, but one who chooses to dream.
And then there’s the haters. You’ve probably never played the games, and even the sheer utterance of the word “pikachu” makes you roll your eyes in pure disdain. Maybe you thought it was silly even as a kid, or your mom simply wouldn’t let you play the game, for fear of demonic possession. I’m not saying that you’re lesser in any way if you didn’t enjoy Pokemon as a kid. But maybe, just maybe, you missed out… or maybe you’ve won, by not getting sucked into all of the hype. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
But, here we are, current day. “Adulthood” is in full-swing: taking daily multi-vitamins, traveling the world on my own, talking about politics, looking at apartments, and complaining about paying too much for gas. I’ve long forgotten about Pokemon, or rather, proactively subtracted it from my life, as was necessary to carry on with reality. I forced myself to view it as something silly and time-wasting, because if I didn’t, it would have devoured the majority of my time and energy. And then, this thing happened…
Pokemon Go happened.
I had heard about it for the longest time, and it seemed like it was just a fantasy, akin to the release of more Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movies… but on the fateful day of July 7, 2016, my wildest childhood dream came true. Pokemon in real life, and I’m the Pokemon trainer… YES. I vividly recall a time when a friend and I would bounce on his trampoline for hours, “catching Pokemon” that were surrounding us on every side. I can’t over exaggerate how much I loved Pokemon… so it would be an understatement to say that I was low-key, thrilled when Pokemon Go was released.
Although, I was a bit afraid that I might relapse into my former Pokemon addiction. But the fact that twelve year old Aaron would have killed for this opportunity swayed me, and I partook.
It’s been a glorious eleven days with this game. The funniest part to me is the immediate resurgence of my immense Pokemon knowledge… suddenly, all those years of “Who’s that Pokemon?!” have become hugely useful. It’s been a blast, going around my community catching Pokemon, indulging in one of the greatest fantasies that my childhood could ever entertain. But, before you begin the eye-rolling or the looks of judgment, lemme offer another point of view to this whole thing. Because there’s something more to this phenomenon than simply childhood memories and adolescent ignorance.
Wanna know how in less than a week after the release, this game has gotten more downloads than Twitter — an app that’s been around for years? Perhaps your curious as to why there’s children and millennials and full-grown adults playing this game. How is it that a “kids game” has made recent national news on multiple occasions, even though the franchise has been around for about two decades?
I think there’s one, singular reason why this thing has exploded in popularity worldwide, and it’s more than money, politics, or marketing strategy:
We long deeply for community.
The other day, my mum and I went for a walk: something that has not happened in probably a decade. But, it was because I wanted to catch Pokemon… and in the process we had some lovely conversation and great time spent together. That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this game. Strangers are meeting in parks, historic landmarks, libraries, and cities, all for the purpose of catching Pokemon. You might think that’s ludicrous, but that’s a community that probably hasn’t really seen each other’s faces in years, and at the very least, it’s getting people out and exercising. Small businesses are taking part too, and because of it, they’re getting more business and local economies are benefiting.
People are in desperate need of other people, truly and genuinely. Community is the foundation for everything we do, and we don’t even realize it. From the very start, God formed Adam… and in the very splendor that was his greatest creation, He found it to be most fitting for man to have community. The companionship of Eve was surely the greatest thing to have ever happened to Adam, aside from knowing the Lord. Can you imaging having nobody to do life with, to eat food with, to experience emotions with, or be known by? That sounds absolutely horrible to me. Perhaps the understanding of our desperate need for community is the very beginning of starting to mend our lack of it.
Even with the addition of sin in our repertoire of humanity, nothing’s changed in regards to our need for companionship, relationship, and community. It’s the reason that the local church is so massively important. It’s the purposeful gathering of people for a common cause (which just so happens to be the most important cause ever, mind you). It’s one thing to bolster up community for a chili cook-off, and another completely when it comes to the local church. There’s something divinely beautiful about the church uniting people under the singular cause of Christ.
But even if it were for no specific purpose or agenda, or is seemingly lacking in the grandiose department… when people come together, community flourishes. If that “purpose” has to be Pokemon in order for that healthy sort of community to happen, then I fully support it.
Maybe you still think Pokemon is silly. You’re probably right. But y’know what… it’s not about the game itself, it’s about what it’s doing in the hearts and minds of people. It’s about the friendships that have become reawakened; the families that have something new to laugh about and bond over; the communities that now have a reason to use those untravelled sidewalks to explore the parks, businesses, and landmarks that had previously held no meaning. When this many people in the world care about something, it’s worth wondering why.
I pray that you look to those around you for love, grace, and community, rather than to the number of likes on your Instagram photos or the retweets that you attain. Let yourself feel silly and perhaps childish, all for the sake of being closer to people. Play Pokemon with your kids, your friends, and even your family — it’s probably the most church-like thing your community has seen in a while. I pray that you feel empowered in this day, realizing that you’re really not as big of a deal as you think you are, and your opinions aren’t really that important either. Live your life, free from the self-imposed pressures to be responsible, important, or even valuable. You’re already all of those things, and you don’t even know it. I hope you move forward in this day, with a lightness of step and a freeness of mind. Go catch em all, and keep moving forward.