Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Reverse Gamification of the Church #PokemonGo

On the first day of Pokemon Go we captured a cute little creature in our living room. Later that afternoon, we captured a Pokemon at the pool. Finally, we snagged a Bellsprout in the sanctuary at church. We leveled up, and then the servers got too busy and my battery died, and we stopped playing.

On the second day of Pokemon, we started "capturing" people playing Pokemon Go. I spotted an SUV creeping slowly through the parking lot of the dentist while I was out on a run. I waved them down, and when they rolled down the window, I said, "Playing Pokemon?" Answer: "Sheepishly, yes. It's my daughter doing it in the back seat, promise!"

Since then, I've decided my game is to watch people play Pokemon. It's fascinating. On my run today, as I returned sweaty from four miles in the Arkansas heat, two young women were staring intensely at their phones on the path, then began jumping up and down, shouting, "Yes! Got it!" 

They had just conquered a gym on Mud Creek Trail, turning it to the blue team.

 Later that afternoon, multiple cars pulled through our church parking lot in order to check in at our Pokestop. Yes, Good Shepherd Lutheran is a PokeStop. Unfortunately, we don't have a gym. Also unfortunate, the icon for our Stop is an old photo of the church sign, a sign that no longer exists.

If you spin the Pokestop, you get free stuff, like PokeBalls, which let you capture more Pokemon.

Here, you can see my Pokemon avatar standing at the GSLC PokeStop. It's located basically right by our columbarium. Just up the street, you see that building that looks like spokes? That's the local nursing home. Just down from it is our elementary school. Everything in the top left of the photo is the local neighborhood. The Ecclesiast is my gamer name. On the right, you can see there is a bat nearby.
This is my avatar. I haven't joined a team yet. I think I have to get to level 5 first, which I'm not super sure I'll do, because...

I keep having loading and server errors. I'm trying to play this game on an ancient iPhone 4s, and it isn't always working out. Plus Nintendo didn't anticipate how popular the game would be, so... servers are slow.

In the meantime, I'm absolutely amused by the way this game has taken our culture by storm, and has people out meeting each other in ways they hadn't previously. 

If you've read my book, you know I write about this reverse gamification. I absolutely would love to see people of faith role out an app like Pokemon Go that functions as the cathedral for the 21st century. Yes, it's fun to find Pokemon in your church. But imagine if there were a virtual reality level in churches. Imagine if people went to worship, and they immediately logged in and could view art, or interact virtually with the space, in ways that mediated, extended, and deepened faith.

In the meantime, Pokemon Go itself presents some major opportunities for churches and Christians. Like walking the dog, you now have a new excuse to talk to people on the path. They're probably out there playing.

They're probably stopping by your church checking in at the PokeStop. So maybe we need to put up little signs, with old school brochures? Water coolers? I'm already trying to figure out if Nintendo is willing to update the graphic on our PokeStop so it reads, "All are welcome! Keep church weird!"

If you want to learn more, read this:

And then this:

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to so jealous if my church isn't a pokestop! I'll have to ask a cool person....I only have a flip phone myself!