Recently, thanks to the folks in Campus Ministry, I had a great conversation with Bishop Malone and 18 other students. We had a chance to ask about current events, situations in schools, and just hang with the Bishop, which was a blast. This meeting gave me the opportunity to do something that would help the older generation understand people my age and how we embrace spiritual ideas.
When we talk about a group’s identity (religion, age, race, etc.), we often make assumptions that lead to bad judgments about individuals. In psychology, making judgments without all relevant information is known as the availability heuristic. This leads people to believe things like “all Muslims are terrorists” or “gun problems are rampant in this country.” A large group of people who are mistakenly put in the negative light are gamers. This is something that applies to me personally, as well as countless other Millennials and iGens. When you see gaming on the news, what is usually seen? Violence in schools and neighborhoods is spurred by violence in video games like Call of Duty. More relevant to this post, Pokémon is seen by Catholics as a serious spiritual threat, introducing children to New Age religious philosophies like reincarnation or occultism. Gamers are, therefore, seen as pro-violence or anti-Catholic which is not always true.
Pokémon is one of the best representations of where the gaming community and millennials as a whole are today. When observed from the outside, the creatures in Pokémon seem like nothing more than enemies that need to be beaten or captured in order to level up, but when you truly study the game, you learn that Pokémon have different personalities, characteristics, motivations, and are individualistic; existing beyond the simple terminology of “monsters.” The player will have trouble beating the game if they do not take the time to understand what each Pokémon is like and what it needs to win.
Whether you like Pokémon or not, it has been played by entire segments of our generation. We have grown up embracing ideas and values of Pokémon, some of which are spiritual. For example, Pokémon has helped me break international barriers with other players from different parts of the world (For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:14). Video games of today, Pokémon included, have also spiked an interest of finding peaceful methods of solving problems. For example, looking at Google Search Trends, words like “peace” and “mercy” skyrocketed with the new demand for ways to solve problems besides violence. Gamers are endorsing products about mercy, while the rest of the world is in desperate need of ambassadors of peace.
This is all an uphill battle, but our generation is about to graduate college and is ready to take the world by storm after the preceding generation has passed. As 90s babies, it is our job to show the world what we can achieve. In order to do so, the older generation must understand what our roots are and how we found our connection with each other. So I gave my old DS and Pokémon SoulSilver to Bishop Malone. I hope he plays it and reflects on gamers’ desire to follow Catholic ideals and with the right inspiration, Millennials are capable of changing the world for the better.
Michael Pearl is a Junior at Niagara University who studies Communications, Psychology, and International Studies. Pearl has research experience in various fields, such as social media operations, social and cognitive behavior, international relations, political violence, and Deaf culture. Pearl is from Clarence, N.Y. and has been faithful to the Catholic Church since he was very young.