Article First appeared in the St. Albert Gazette here:
Last weekend there were clumps of people in our city, particularly around St. Albert Place, who appeared to be in engrossed in something very important happening on their phones. They kept muttering things about levels, stardust and poke-stops and every now and then someone would exclaim “Got Him.”
It occurred to me that it has been a long time since there has been a craze like this. I remember Yo-Yo’s, I remember the Rubicks cube, but even these phenomenons didn’t seem to grab people like Pokemon Go has.
Sure part of it has to do with the technology that makes it possible. Another aspect might be that a whole generation of millennials are having their first experience of nostalgia, lovingly reacquainting themselves with Pikachu and their other playmates from their Game-Boys.
There has to be more to the success of Pokemon Go, though, than just these factors.
Undeniably, there is something enjoyable about sitting on a park bench beside the library and catching the same Pokemon that the 30 people around you are also questing after. (Yes I admit it… I’m now level 9). You are together, but you are each individually taking your own journey.
As human beings we long for an experience of community where we can truly be one with others, but also not have to be the same. Unfortunately most of us have learned through pain, to distance ourselves from others and fill our lives with distractions so we don’t ever truly get to know ourselves.
The reason a game like Pokemon Go can be as successful as it has been is that it gives both an experience of pseudo-community and also pseudo-individuality. In the end, though, it is still pseudo. For a moment we can be engrossed in something that takes away the dull ache of loneliness and the painful sense that we are not being true to who we were created to be, but at some point we have to turn the phone off and re-enter a real world where nothing has changed.
The desire for one-but-not-the-same community is deep in all of us, and it is something we need to pay attention to.
Part of the reason Block Parties (check out GoodNeighbourProject.org) are so successful in St. Albert is that our city realized ten years ago that the path to thriving neighbourhoods are neighbours who actually experience one-but-not-the-same community.
On August 28th, St. Albert Alliance church will host a BBQ and Festival in three local parks (check out staalliance.org for more info). Our goal is to be this one-but-not-the-same kind of community.
Christians believe that this desire for one-but-not-the-same community comes because we are created in the image of a one-but-not-the same God. They also believe that the church is meant to be a reflection of that one-but-not-the-same life.
As you put your phone down this weekend, why not make a Poke-stop at a local church and see for yourself.