Preface: This article is written to parents, grandparents, and gamers who play the Pokémon game(s) or know someone who does. My intent is to present the facts and potential spiritual implications that a harmless-looking game may have upon you or someone you love. I write because I feel a responsibility to be a light in this dark generation. Although this is lengthy, please read in its entirety with an open mind and receptive heart.
Before we delve into this topic too deep, I feel it is crucial that we understand a little of the history about the creation of Pokémon and what it is about. Pokémon, created by Satoshi Tajiri, gained much popularity in the mid-late 1990’s after the first Pokémon games were released by Nintendo. From the games, other merchandise was manufactured such as Pokémon trading cards, cartoons, movies, apparel, plush toys, and the like.
I Get a Bad Feeling About This
When Pokémon first came out in the late 1990’s, there was an anime cartoon episode which caused nearly 700 viewers to suffer seizures, many of which had not suffered seizures before. The claims were that it was due to photo-sensitivity, but it brought to my mind another viable possibility. Do you remember the biblical account in Luke 9 where a boy had seizures due to a demon? If not, take the time to read Luke 9:37-43.
Even before the above-mentioned incident took place, there were Christian parents, grandparents, pastors, and teachers who did not have good feelings about Pokémon, but couldn’t exactly pinpoint why they felt uneasy. Even to this day, there are those of us who get an uneasy feeling about the new Pokémon craze. For me, it doesn’t agree with my spirit for some reason; and after research, I see why. I feel that this is the Holy Spirit protecting His children from something we may not see. And if you’re reading this, perhaps it is the Holy Spirit of God protecting you from partaking in something that will harm you, although to the human mind, it appears harmless as can be.
Games, movies, and books can, indeed, carry bad spirits. Think of the Ouija board game, for instance. It involves necromancy, psychic phenomena, communicating with evil spirits, etc. And certain movies have been specifically linked to causing people to commit suicide (see my blog HERE for more details). Evil begets evil, oftentimes. We should never leave the door open for potential evil to enter.
In the early years of Pokémon, trading cards were the big trend. However, this was dangerous because it introduced card traders to even more sinister cards such as Dungeons and Dragons as well as Magic: The Gathering cards where children would learn all about how to summons evil powers and such. The same company that produced Magic: The Gathering also produced the Pokémon trading cards.
If you are a Christian and have an uneasy feeling about allowing yourself or your children/grandchildren to play Pokémon games, don’t ignore that feeling or that “inner voice”, so to speak. Again, it may be the Lord protecting you from something you can’t see. God often speaks to His children in a whisper. Hone in and don’t ignore the Lord’s still small voice within your spirit. Remember how the prophet Elijah heard him? It wasn’t in the strong wind, earthquakes, or fires – it was in a small whisper. “…and, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” 1st Kings 19:11-12.
Addictive Pokémon – Go Away!
Now, twenty years after the first Pokémon game was released, it is back in the spotlight and more popular than ever. Just this month (July 2016) a new game app, Pokémon Go, was released for iPhone and Android cell phone gamers. It uses Google Maps to place the characters on your screen in familiar surroundings such as your own front yard! As you walk or drive around, you may find Pokémon creatures hiding in different parts of the city. The object of the game is to find hidden Pokémon creatures and capture them. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, let’s not take everything at face value. I will build upon this point later. Great technology, I must admit, but as fascinating as this technology is, we must see the bigger picture and not be smitten.
Pokémon Go is known as an augmented reality game and has the potential to become addictive in an unhealthy way. While an unhealthy addiction is bad, it isn’t enough to necessarily “demonize” the game, because some could argue that they wouldn’t become addicted, thus, they’d feel free to play it with no feelings of condemnation. I will say that no one sets out to become an addict of anything; but once an addiction takes over, it gets a stronghold on the person and brings feelings of compulsion. Nonetheless, I find other reasons why playing this game isn’t such a good idea. The addictive game becomes a time-killer but also a time-waster. Ephesians 5:16 instructs us as follows: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Does this mean that relaxing or having a time of leisure activity is evil – no. But, be aware of how many hours are spent in leisure and how many are spent in prayer, or in helping others, or in serving the Lord.
It’s not only children who can become easily addicted. I have read accounts of where people would drive around for hours looking for Pokémon creatures to capture for their Pokémon Go cell phone game. Some adults will take time away from their families to hunt Pokémons to capture. Gamers can be so engrossed in the game that they get injured because the were not looking where they were walking; others will even jump fences and put themselves in harm’s way to look for fictitious characters. Something about this seems very skewed and extreme, having strange mental implications upon individuals.
Just recently, a teenage girl in Wyoming was looking for some Pokémon creatures to capture for her game when she came across an actual dead body floating in a body of water. And while that is freakish to hear of, it was somewhat telling of what she and millions of others are doing – they are wasting time trying to find something that isn’t actually alive! It’s just like a chasing of the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:11 states: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit [like chasing the wind], and there was no profit under the sun.”
Life is as a vapor – here today and gone tomorrow. What are we spending our time doing? For one day only, write down how you spend each hour of the day. After 24 hours, review your chart and see where the bulk of your time goes. Granted, there are responsibilities – but focus on the “down time” – what do you do during those hours?
“Come now, you that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas you know not what shall be tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.” James 4:13-14.
This is precisely why we can’t afford to waste our time, our years, our life! Focus on what matters most. God, family and others. At the end of life, will we wish we had captured more Pokémon or will we realize what really matters?
The word Pokémon is short for Pocket Monsters or Pocket Demons. Ironic that the cell phone is usually carried in the pocket, giving the gamer a tangible, weighty sense of the characters in their pocket. The idea is to capture as many Pokémons as you can so that you can become a Pokémon Master. Once a Master, you can summons or release them when you need help, power, or revenge.
Writer, Berit Kjos wrote: “What if they carry their favorite monsters like magical charms or fetishes in their pockets, trusting them to bring power in times of need? Many do.” For Christian parents, this should raise some red flags. What is being taught to the young and impressionable as to where to turn in times of need? Who holds the power? Is God their very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46:1), or is Pokémon? It may sound ridiculous to an adult mind to reason like this – but a child’s mind can be very trusting in such things. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Kjos further wrote: “Psychologists have warned that role-playing can cause the participant to actually experience, emotionally, the role being played. Again, ‘the child becomes the master.’ Or so it seems to the player. Actually, the programmer who writes the rules is the master. And when the game includes occultism and violence, the child-hero is trained to use his or her spiritual power to kill, poison, evolve, and destroy—over and over. Not only does this repetitive practice blur the line between reality and fantasy, it also sears the conscience and causes the player to devalue life. The child learns to accept unthinkable behavior as normal.”
Kjos continues, “The child must exercise his own intelligent mind to learn the complex rules. But after learning the rules, the programmed stimuli produce conditioned responses in the player. These responses become increasingly automatic, a reflex action. Naturally, this can lead to psychological addiction, a craving for ever greater (and more expensive) thrills and darker forces.”
But as I stated earlier, it isn’t just children who can become addicted to this game. Adults will shun responsibilities of the home, marriage, and parenthood to play games instead. Many will spend time away from their families to play or be so entangled in a game that they can’t lay it aside for a family dinner or to visit with loved ones. Little boys in men’s bodies and little girls in women’s bodies; when will we take seriously the responsibility to be an example to others, whether we are parents or not. We need to have the spiritual maturity to know when to lay some things aside. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1).
“Is being entertained worth being defiled?” ~Missionary Keith Daniel
We are to be a light to this world and spending our time wisely doing good and not partaking in questionable activities. And yes, I consider the Pokémon games questionable. Why? For many reasons – I will explain below.
In a rare interview with Time magazine, Satoshi Tajiri (Pokémon creator) stated the following:
Tajiri: Think of it like this; if a horse runs over you and you die, then the horse is bad. But if you’re riding the horse, the horse is your ally. so, if you have a monster in your collection, then it’s considered good; but if not, it’s still not considered bad because it could be your friend one day.
Okay, for starters, there are some of the monsters in the game which are evil since they possess paranormal, psychic or hypnotic powers. Any type of powers like these are demonic in nature, just so you know. I wrote an entire blog about such powers being satanic. For scriptural references, see my post HERE. Although it is a fictitious game, the premise of the characters’ power is based upon non-fictitious evil. In turn, it teaches a misleading subliminal message that evil equates to power.
The game is heavily influenced by wrong beliefs of evil mysticism and New Age religions in the various elements it exalts (ex. Pokémon Sun/Moon games coming out later this year exalting certain earth elements as in certain New Age or Pagan beliefs. Also see Galatians 4:3 and 4:8-9). In a statement released in 2001 by Pastor Brett Peterson, he stated: “Buddhist Mysticism, Hinduism, meditation rituals, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Book of Tao, the Analects of Confucius, the Gita, the I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead… All these philosophies influenced Pokémon!”
Then, we look at what Tajiri stated in his interview – basically saying that if you are the one riding a horse that kills someone then the horse is good. In other words, killing is good if you’re not the one killed. Then he goes on to assert that even your foe could become your friend; which is very misleading. Satan is the only enemy of the Believer and he will never become a friend. Jesus is that friend that sticks even closer than a brother (see Prov. 18:24). But we must draw the line in the sand and not be accepting of Satan or any of his schemes; he will never be on our side and the Christian will never be on his side. Again – a misleading belief held by Tajiri which is reinforced in the Pokémon games when it is lived out or “played out” by the gamer.
The Pokémon trend will be here for a while; so I want you to be informed about the possible pitfalls. Later this year (in November 2016) Nintendo will be releasing another couple of Pokémon games for their 3DS system – Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Some are calling 2016 “The Year of the Pokémon“.
Even after presenting this information, some will choose to ignore it and justify playing such games anyway. If someone wants to do something bad enough, they will find some way to justify it. Nonetheless, I have said my piece. I hope that you will prayerfully consider your ways and make the best decisions in life. We only get one pass at life, let’s spend our time wisely and for the greater good. Let’s not fill our minds with useless junk all the time. Let’s step back and look at the bigger picture of eternity and not get so wrapped up in all of these trends.
After I was nearing the completion of writing this blog, I saw a Christian friend’s post on Facebook and it really made a lot of sense and gave a lot of food for thought. With her permission, I just had to include what she wrote below:
“If we gave God as much attention as Pokémon, if we chased after Him as much as Pokémon, if we got into our Bible as much as Pokémon, we’d be so blessed, anointed, and would praise Him so much that we’d enter the world to spread His word and His love. Not to catch some animal. I understand it’s mostly for fun and exercise but how many of you with this app that are Christians go to your Pokéstops and talk about Jesus? How many of you find Pokéstops but don’t find at least one person to share the Gospel with or even pray for? I’m not bashing on anyone who plays the game, do what you want. But ya’ll gotta remember what we do with our time on earth will go into what we do with our eternity. I just spent 4 days soaked in the Presence of God. Drenched with the Holy Spirit. Baptized. Received a new voice. Praised Him like never before. Delivered from bondages. Spoken my future over me. Fallen in awe and surrender. I plan to sacrifice my comfort for a God who loves me, has chosen me, redeemed me, given me hope and life. I’m searching for people to reach the Heavens with me, not a character on my phone that doesn’t give me the pure joy that the Lord does. Yes, I am praying over this whole thing. When you become so filled with Him your focus doesn’t want to be on anything else. And yeah, ppl may be going to the church but honestly, is it for God or to catch Pokémon?! I mean, come on…”
Revivalist Leonard Ravenhill once said, “Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy. The more joy you have in the Lord the less entertainment you need.” Again, I am not stating that having times of leisure are necessarily sinful; but the point is, what type of entertainment do we choose and why do some seem to crave constant, stimulating entertainment more than others. Perhaps it could be due to an emptiness within their souls. The idea is to keep the mind distracted and noisy so they won’t have to get quiet and think about their life and how it is being wasted and how if feels so meaningless and devoid of joy.
God bless you for reading… please consider what I have presented (out of a deep concern) and please do not feel that I am “bashing” anyone who may have played such games unknowingly. Now that you have the wisdom, it is your responsibility to make the wisest choice. Let us all strive to please God in these last days. He needs the genuine, the attentive, the ones not easily distracted by this world. Are you one of those few?
Closing Side Note: You may have also heard in the news how Pokémon Go game was used to assist four people in robberies. The suspects created a PokéStop at a CVS parking lot in Missouri, and when they saw people gathering, they robbed them at gunpoint. This game can be used by predators to lure people to certain locations. This is just a side note, but bore mentioning, due to safety concerns.
Pokemon: What Is It? (article)
Watch What You Watch (blog)