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Online Game Brings Crowds to Religious Locations



Have you heard of Pokemon Go?  Those of you that haven’t might need to get up to speed as it turns out that across the world many convents, churches and other religious buildings and statues are unwittingly playing a part in this global phenomenon.

In really simple terms, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game in which players see an extra layer on top of the real world through their mobile phone screens.  That layer is created by assigning game content to real world GPS locations. 

In this case the content is little Pokemon (animated creatures) that players can ‘catch’ and Pokemon gyms where people can train and upgrade the Pokemon they have captured.  Players have to physically visit the GPS location of the Pokemon and Gyms to interact with the game.

Pokemon Go is creating a stir at religious locations
across the world –  as this US Sister reports via Twitter

Game content is generally posted at buildings or landmarks of note - often a church, convent, school or statue.

Originating in Japan in the 1990s, Pokemon has enjoyed success as an animation television and film series and gaming series across various platforms.  But this latest evolution is proving enormously successful with young and old players.

The physical interaction is the cause of mixed feelings as there is a positive side to players meeting and interacting in the real world while playing the game, but for others it is the cause of dismay.  Both Auschwitz in Poland and the Holocaust Museum in the US have asked players to stop playing the game at those locations due to the nature of the surroundings and other locations have reported that locals feel intimidated when hordes of people hang around an area.

We’re not sure yet how many Presentation locations globally are part of the game but it might just explain all those people hanging around outside your building!

For some it has been welcomed as an opportunity to engage, Church of England has offered guidelines to its members to facilitate engagement with players.  You can read those guidelines here: http://bit.ly/29HOZNL

The Guardian has written an interesting piece on the connections between the Pokemon phenomenon and religion and the connection to Japan’s Shinto beliefs. http://bit.ly/2aa2E4v

A Christian blogger from the US offers advice on how religious organisations can capitalise on the Pokemon Go craze: http://thewardrobedoor.com/2016/07/churches-pokemon-go.html