Should Christians Play Pokémon?

Disclaimer: I decided to re-write this post last-minute. Please forgive any fuzzy logic.

When I made the plans to spend the month of July looking at the Bible, I did that mainly because nothing nerdy or geeky was scheduled. Or so I thought.

Pokémon GO came out last month, and was met with open arms, becoming one of the biggest mobile games on the market.

Except, there’s one problem.

I don’t have a smartphone. I can’t play Pokémon GO.

But I am quite familiar with the games before, having clocked several hours into Fire Red and Emerald, and watched the first season of the anime. I won’t call myself an expert, but I think I know enough about it to have a stance on it.

And enough to get up in arms when Christians call Pokémon occult.

Why is this a problem for me? Well, simply put, I was in a family that didn’t allow Pokémon. I didn’t play it until I was eighteen. My parents didn’t even allow video game consoles until I was thirteen.

They had a reasonable explanation, though: they didn’t want me to spend every waking hour playing or wanting to play video games. My parents were wise in keeping me from Pokémon, but it wasn’t for spiritual purposes.

But it’s more than that. Pokémon, in my understanding, is one of two fandoms that is most hated by Christians. (The other is Harry Potter.) And, frankly, that bugs me.

So, what do I say to the parents who claim that Pokémon is evil?

Well, on the one hand, I see where you’re coming from. Ghosts, psychics, evolution, “summoning” the above—it has all the tropes of something occult. And I respect you not wanting your kids to play the games. Moreover, I appreciate the fact that you care about the media your kids take in. Parents like you are few and far between in the age where middle-schoolers play horror games starring possessed animatronics.

But, please, for the love of…anything, stop calling it occult. Stop calling it satanic. Stop calling it brainwashing. I’ve heard too much that. It’s a video game/anime that happens to be popular. Really popular, in fact. If it were satanic, occult, or brainwashing, then what does that make the people who watch the show or play the games? Satanists? Am I a Satanist?

Sorry. It’s hard to deal with this topic because it’s way too easy to deal with it in extremes. Hence the last-minute re-write. In fact, a lot of fandoms are either “love it or hate it.” Pokémon is just one of the few that has religious reasons behind hating it.

I’ve spent weeks in retrospect over this titan of a franchise, trying to come up with an answer as to whether or not Christians should play these games. After about three weeks, it dawned on me that I was asking myself if kids should play these games. Being a somewhat-discerning twenty-something who spends way too much time on the internet, I fell back on my philosophy that nothing is kid-friendly, and said no.

So, should Christians play Pokémon? I honestly don’t know. It has its benefits, but it’s not a game that needs to be played, unless you want to get in on this piece of culture.

Which is why I played it. Mine is the generation that plays (or played) Pokémon, and I grew up distant from my culture. I played Pokémon not just because I needed something to do in my afternoons, but because I wanted to play the games that all of my friends at college played, and in some cases were playing.

You may be thinking of Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” or similar passages. By playing Pokémon, I am taking up a pattern of this world. But you know what I say to that? 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some. I do this all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Unbelievers generally don’t have “No Pokémon” rules. Maybe because I play Pokémon, I can have a conversation with my unbelieving peers about the game, which could turn into a friendship, which could lead to their salvation, if the Lord allows. Remember, when Paul went to Athens and spoke in front of the council there, he cited their own poetry. (Acts 17:16-34) He knew their culture, so he could speak to them.

In conclusion, I believe there is nothing openly satanic about Pokémon (at least nothing more occult than other media we consume), and I can defend that statement. However, I cannot defend the statement that the series is wholly righteous. Though, to be fair, I can’t do that with anything or anyone, except God.

Don’t like my opinions? Hit me up in the comments. I could use the feedback.

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