The Fleeting Community of Pokemon Go

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have been playing Pokemon Go. I have taken to the streets to catch a litany of tiny creatures on my phone and gone through some crazy lengths to catch them.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, Nintendo released a new game in its Pokemon franchise. It allows users to grab their phones, walk around the city, and catch virtual Pokemon. As someone who grew up with the games on my Gameboy Color, it is everything the 8-year-old Luke wanted.
We are now just over a week into this phenomenon and it has surpassed Tinder in user base. It’s even getting close to overtaking Twitter. That’s right. Twitter. It seems that I cannot leave my house without seeing people walking around the city with their phone out, ready to find the elusive Pikachu.
Say what you will, but the game is getting people out of their houses, it’s getting them active, and oddly it’s cultivating community.

We Desire Community

The first weekend it launched, a friend of mine and I took to my neighborhood, Over The Rhine, with the game. Along the way we were joined by a young man who was out playing. We walked with him for over an hour around the city. We stopped at crosswalks and got to get directly in conversation. This game has taken a world that is usually walking with headphones, creating a mini world that is to be undisturbed, and flipped it. It has taken us outside ourselves for a moment.
It has proven that we are wired for community. We will rally around anything if it means we can create a connection that is meaningful to us. I have seen people cross race, age, socioeconomic class, and more just to gather around Pokemon.
Here is what is interesting to me, it is not an easy game to just play. Pokemon Go forces you out of your house, into the streets, and to be moving. It takes an effort to go and play it, yet people are coming out in droves. Despite all the news that is slowly dividing us, Pokemon Go has created something that brings us together. It brings us to the same park, for the same purpose, even if it is just for a moment.

The Joy Of Lasting Community

Pokemon Go will fade. It’s popularity is high now, but soon enough people will get tired. They will get tired of having to leave to track down their favorite Pokemon. They will get tired of seeing the same creatures. Slowly but surely, the phones will go back into our pockets and this momentary community will fade.
Where, in that moment, will we turn for community? Where will we place our energy and time? I am calling that we transfer this energy into lasting missional community. The lengths that I have gone through, the lengths I have watched Christians and non-Christians alike has left me wondering, what if we sought to build community with the same effort?
At Missio Dei, we seek to build a community that is lasting, founded in Christ. We want to cultivate a pursuit of Christ that brings others along for the ride. Yet often, we make excuses. Maybe we feel that we can become a burden to others, maybe we fear being known, or maybe our self-centered laziness isolates us and we spend our time with Netflix and on Twitter.
Whatever the reason is, let us examine it. Let us think creatively and pursue gospel centered community as if it is the Pikachu across town. Let’s grab people from our neighborhoods and bring them with us, that they may enter into a journey infinitely more joyful than Pokemon Go. Let us rally behind this type of community.

Laying Down What’s Fleeting

Pokemon Go is fun. I’ll likely enjoy it for a week or so more before it ends up in the dust area of my phone where apps are no longer opened. I have heard stories of it being a great missional tool. Praise God that he can leverage a game based on mythical gods and creatures to His glory.
Yet in all of this, let’s be aware that this community is just as fleeting as the game. Let us shift our focus, our energy, and walk alongside gospel centered community with the same joy and presence. Let’s take our communities out of our living rooms and into our parks and public spaces, because like Pikachu, those we are called to reach for the sake of the Kingdom of God are in our city, not our living rooms.