Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. -Colossians 3:2 (ESV)
Pokémon GO? On a devotionals site? Are you serious? Yes. And please read on to see why.
At the time of this writing, the smartphone game Pokémon GO has taken the United States by storm. (For a primer on it, see this Polygon article.) Nintendo (the company that originally created the Pokémon rage in the 1990s) stock shot up by a staggering 25%. And despite being way past the original target demographic of the original Pokémon TV series and toys, I found myself drawn into the game, which adds what’s known as an augmented reality layer over the real world, transforming it into a place to collect cartoony creatures and have them battle for territorial supremacy.
It’s a fun but very worldly game, to be sure. It requires that your phone is on, and the app is running. It tracks your distance walked using GPS (which is good for exercise), which the app also uses to help figure out where you are relative to Pokémon and relevant landmarks. It has a built-in system for advancing in levels as a Pokémon trainer, for teaming up with other users, and even to buy items for your training. Believe it or not, you can actually spend US $99.99 in the game if you wanted!
The worldliness of the game also highlighted the depravity of humanity. In just the first week of this game’s public release, some players have been robbed (sometimes intentionally being lured by other players), and there has even been report of a car accident as a person was playing the game while driving a motor vehicle!
But for me, the shine of it wore off very quickly as I saw what how it demanded my focus. It battled for my attention. I was walking down the hall at work and put my phone away to pray…but didn’t turn it off or lock it. As I walked and prayed, the phone buzzed and dinged more than it ever had…or ever has since! And for a second, I paused in the middle of my prayer to glance at the screen. Tsk tsk!
I immediately apologized to God and put the phone away. I took my spiritual focus off God and onto a screen that put a false world atop this false world! I quickly relegated the game for playing only when doing nothing else.
The game itself is not inherently evil, but is designed in a way that demands our attention and focus…and we can choose a kingdom focus. So thanks, Pokémon GO, for helping me remember how easy it is to get lost in the shiny temptations of the world…and how to refocus back on the walk that matters!