What is Pokemon Go - why do churches need to know about it? Opportunities - and concerns
First of all, what is Pokémon GO?
Pokémon GO is a mobile and tablet app game which lets players find Pokémon (animated creatures, first created in the 90′s, which players have to catch, train and battle with). The game takes place in 'augmented reality' (ie the game combines real life action with virtual gaming) by using GPS as you walk around different locations to find the Pokémon.
The game has been an overnight sensation with millions playing it around the world.
Why does your church need to know?
Your church might be designated as a ‘PokéStop’ - real life buildings and landmarks that players have to visit to get certain items they need to play the game. Your church could also be a ‘gym’ where players can battle their Pokémon.
Pokémon Go is therefore giving churches an opportunity to meet people from their area who might not normally come to church.
How do you know if your church is a Pokestop or a gym?
Download Pokémon Go on your mobile or tablet. Through the game you will be able to see if your church is a PokéStop or a gym.
You might also spot people standing outside the church on their phones who may be playing the game and at your ‘PokéStop’.
Are there concerns about Pokémon Go?
There are some safety concerns, especially for children. The game is for players who are nine years old and over. It encourages players to walk around their neighbourhood to catch pokémon, but the makers have warned players to: "Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings."
Children's charity NSPCC has issued warnings to children to take care when playing it - because Pokémon can appear at random, sometimes near roads.
The charity also says that children need to be aware of the dangers of meeting strangers who might also be catching pokémon in the same area as them, never to speak to people they don't know, and they recommend travelling out in groups whilst playing, and telling a parent or guardian where they are going.
The NSPCC say players should also be aware of people who might use 'lures' to draw people to a particular area which could be dangerous. They also gave warnings about buying things with real money in the game, and about how much information it can access about you through your phone.
If you have any worries about playing the game and would like to know more information about how to stay safe, then you can find out more on the NSPCC's page. Or call them on this telephone number: 0800 1111
Why are people talking about it?
Pokémon Go has been downloaded millions of times and is top of the app charts in all of the countries in which it has been released. Its popularity is largely because this is the first time Pokémon has been available to play on a mobile device, meaning you don't need a specific console to play it.
It means the game is more easily available for people to play, especially as it is free to download (although there are in-game options to buy things with real money).
Also, the game's augmented reality feature has proved popular - with players able to see virtual pokémon in a real-life environment, eg your garden or living room, using a mobile device.
It can be downloaded through a mobile device's app store for free.
What can your church to do get involved?
This could well be an opportunity for churches to welcome young people, often in their late teens and twenties who wouldn’t normally ‘darken the door’. There are positive stories online, such as this reported by the BBC.
You could ….
• Place welcome signs outside: encourage them to come inside and offer them drinks and snacks. The game also uses a lot of battery so why create a battery charging station? If you’ve got it, let them connect to the church’s wifi
• Speak to players about the game: learn how to play it yourself, it’s a good way to start a conversation that may lead on to other things.
• Hold a Pokeparty like Christ Church Stone https://www.facebook.com/events/246500169067368/
• Tweet about it: Just like St Stephen's Rednal and Hope Church Islington did. Don’t forget to use #PokemonGo:
But also be aware of your environment. Church wardens or stewards may need to welcome groups of players coming in during services – not to prevent them entering but to explain quietly to them what is going on, invite them in, offer refreshments or encourage to join the worship! At other times in the week, consider having welcome leaflets available for Pokémon Go players
Pokémon Go Glossary
Pokémon - a virtual pocket monster.
Pokéball - what you use to capture a Pokémon with.
Pokéstop - places of interest which show up as blue icons on the map - where players can collect free items.
Gym - a place where players can battle each other’s pokémon.
Team - when you reach level 5 you can choose to be part of one of three teams, Yellow, Red or Blue.
Lures - an item in the game which can be used to draw rare pokémon to a particular pokéstop . Anyone can place a lure.