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Pokémon Go!

Jul 21, 2016

WOW - everything changed in the school holidays! Just as we all began to slowly unwind, Nintendo released the POKEMON GO Mobile App on 6 July. It quickly dominated, well, seemingly everything. It only took five hours to climb to #1 on the download charts after its release, which was twice as fast as the previous champion. It’s also out-trending many other social media networks and has been defined as the next ‘craze’.

In essence, it's pretty simple. You create an avatar and wander around your local neighbourhood using your smartphone camera to capture augmented reality (AR) creatures. This is best described as a virtual layer on top of the real world and has been around for a few years now. But it took the power of Pokémon for it to go mainstream. It uses GPS to situate players on a real-world map, which looks a lot like a rough version of Google Maps. As you wander around, Pokémon appear on the GPS map that then switches to a real-world view provided by the smartphone’s front camera with the target animated onto the real terrain. Players then throw ‘pokeballs’ at their targets to capture and contain them and then ultimately progress through the various levels using their respective collections.

The little critters are all here and part of the appeal of the game is that it hits the nostalgia sweet spot for adults. Those who battled with Pikachu & Co on the Game Boy in the 90’s can relate to the youngsters discovering this world for the very first time.

I was first introduced to this new craze while down in Melbourne for work meetings the weekend after it was released and have since explored it a little more after returning to Sydney and preparing to host ‘The Digital Discipleship Conference’ which took place last weekend.

Craig Pokemon

This is the biggest thing going on in the digital space right now and it’s important for our students, families and staff to be informed about what’s going on. So here’s some PRO’s & CON’s to consider:

Let’s begin with the negatives:
1. It’s yet another tech related thing to obsess over in the already overcrowded social-media space … as if we aren’t all glued to our devices enough.
2. There have been safety concerns as some players have been seriously injured chasing these creatures by walking blindly into traffic etc. or following lures to unfamiliar and dangerous locations.
3. As you can imagine, some have been caught out with high data usage costs or have had to upgrade their mobile plans. Sales for external portable battery boosters/chargers have spiked too.

On the flipside, there have been some positives:
1. Unlike the usual stereotypical lazy gamers, this forces players to get up off the couch and literally walk around in order to play the game. In fact some features (like hatching eggs) only work when you’ve walked a minimum of 2kms. Parents at least seem pleased with the increased physical activity and fitness that comes from playing this game.
2. There have also been numerous reports of better mental health and wellbeing amongst young people who have formed social connections by playing out in the community or playing in groups.
3. My personal favourite - many churches (and including our churches Head Office in Epping) have been nominated as ‘pokestops’ where players need to physically go in order to collect more balls to keep playing … refueling spots if you like! What an awesome opportunity to creativity welcome, engage and connect with many young people in the various communities around our homes, schools and churches – or in fact any place where we do life together!

“Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (NLT)

Pr Craig Vanas

Children's Ministries - Greater Sydney Conference

Chaplain - Hills Adventist College

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