It’s all the rage. Pokémon Go is the virtual video game app taking America by storm. The game combines so many of our society’s wants (e.g. immediate and unlimited entertainment), habits (e.g. excessively looking at our phones) and tendencies (e.g. escapism), all into one fun app.
We’ve heard commentators talk about the great upside, such as more exercise and a more social form of video gaming. We’ve also heard of the tremendous downsides, such as endless distraction, nothing to show for our time and efforts, as well as opportunities for perverts and predators to do harm. There are a lot of good blogs and articles out there that do a better job than I could, analyzing that.
What I wish to do here is to talk about the fad itself. News reports show that Pokémon Go is an overnight success, and a very profitable one. If there’s one thing that history and human nature shows us, it’s that fads fade.
In his classic book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay examines some of the more shocking fads and mass delusions throughout history.
One of those fads he describes is tulip mania, where by 17th Century, Dutch (and other parts of Europe) became obsessed with the buying and selling of tulip flower bulbs. According to Mackay, tulips became more valued than gold, wherein entire family fortunes were wasted on the flowers. That’s because after years of soaring value, one day, people woke up to the fact that tulips are just that: tulips.
The Pokémon Go game is historically popular. But at the end of the day, it’s just a video game.
The question for Christians is what to do with this cultural moment. There are those (like me) who simply want to roll our eyes at the fad. The better route would be to learn about the game, perhaps even participate (in moderation), so as to build bridges with people who need to hear the Gospel.
If we allow the game to overtake our lives and attention and thereby set aside more important things like prayer, Scripture and real-life human contact, then we not only will have missed an opportunity, we will have wasted our lives. If, however, we instead can harness even a fad for the sake of the Gospel, then it will all have been worth it.