Pokemon has not only captured the game and collecting market among young people; it has also captured the financial market. Pokemon began in Japan as a Nintendo Game Boy game, and now encompasses television with a cartoon program by the same name, plush toys, posters, coloring books, T-shirts, comics, audio CD's, strategy books, hats, and a growing list of other possibilities. Mewtwo Strikes Back, a full-length motion picture, will be out November 10th.
Pokemon have more working for them than having strengths and weaknesses; they also have the ability to evolve into "higher forms" by making a conscious choice rather than evolving as a matter of, --oh well!-- evolution. Pokemon can either evolve or devolve depending on the trainer's needs. Pokemon also has characters that are psychic or ghostly, thereby giving them advantages by displaying supernatural powers.
Another problem that Pokemon raises is that young peole cannot make good decisions about when to play and "not" play. A growing number of schoolteachers and schools have banned Pokemon from their schools and classrooms. Students have difficulty leaving playtime at the classroom door, thereby not giving the teacher their full attention during class.
Students also have difficulty dealing with their emotions after making a "bad" trade or purchase. It is not uncommon for a student to become depressed after a bad deal literally ruining his day.
There have been reports of young people having their valuable cards stolen on campus or in the clssroom. You can imagine the trauma of having your card collection of several hundred dollars disappear.
Eric, a thirteen-year-old enthusiast, said, "It's highly addictive and I think it's fun that there's a world out there with imaginary creatures that you can control and are highly powerful."
Another problem, and one that the Christian cannot ignore, is the occultic influence that comes with the game. Pokemon who have psychic abilities and are able to evolve or devolve introduce an occultic world that young people may not have the maturity to deal with. The wise parent will oversee this child's activities and playtime, interacting with his child, and instructing his son or daughter in their faith. In a word, it offers the parent a teachable moment that may not otherwise occur.
Teachable moments are precious and few. It is not uncommon for Christian parents to overreact and want to protect their children from all negative influences in their lives. However, it may be an opportunity for parents to teach their children a biblical truth, rather than calling for the censors.
The fact that Pokemon opens a door into the realm of the occult and the world of fantasy should concern parents because it can easily lead to a deeper involvement with other games that are more seductive and ultimately deadly.
A concern worth noting is that Pokemon may whet the appetite for more sophisticated fantasy games such as Magic and ultimately Dungeons and Dragons. Pokemon is primarily played by elementary-aged students, whereas Magic is played by junior high students, and Dungeons and Dragons is mostly played by students in high school and older. Each game introduces the player to more and more seductive and occult fantasies and activities.
It may be wise to limit the amount of money that will be used for the game. Pokemon, with its addictive potential, can easily become a money pit. It may be instructive to encourage your child to use his own money that he has earned through chores, for example. Learning the value of a dollar is always a good lesson to learn.
We need to ask the question, What is this game teaching me--or my child--about magic, power, God, and spirituality? Do the answers to these questions bring my child or me into a closer relationship with God? If not, why?
First, the game is a social time for engaging in friendly play.
Second, the game fosters cooperation. It takes the help of one's playmates to capture and train all one hundred and fifty-plus Pokemon.
Third, the game helps the player develop skills in using strategy, thinking, and memorization. The game also encourages a child to develop reading skills so he can achieve mastery.
Fourth, the game promotes negotiation and organization skills that may be useful in life.
We must keep our focus on the things of God. Philippians 4:8 tells us to keep our minds on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report. These are the things that we are to dwell on--not on the magical world of fantasy and psychic power.