Pokémon Go and New Student Outreach

Our Values as We Approach a New Digital Tool

We wrote the following reflect on our motivation at the beginning of our Social Media Guide for NSO Proxe Stations, and it feels just as relevant now, a year later, as it did then:

Using our social presence well is a part of evangelism, of living out our faith, and of being a disciple of Jesus in 2015.  Our social tools give us additional ways to connect with friends on campus. We need to use them well. 

What guides us as we do this? We want to make another space for God to act in the lives of our friends. We want to capture the imagination of other students, getting people curious and excited. We want to contextualize for ethnic, gender, and affinity subgroups around campus. We want to use social media as a place of connection, aim for both buzz and depth/honesty, but avoiding coming across as hyper-promotional.

So, what is Pokémon Go?

Start by reading this LifeHacker post.

How could I use Pokémon Go for ministry?

PokéProxe

Would still need to develop this. Email us if you like the idea. It could be worth developing a Proxe (read about what these are here) because of the scripted help for students in articulating the gospel.

The PokéProxe could work as both Pocket Proxe and a Stationary Proxe. If we do Pocket PokéProxes, we could station 2-4 people at each Pokéstop on campus to talk to the students who walk by trying to catch Pokémon.

Lures

Potential luring locations: Proxe Stations, Large Group meeting rooms, Small Group meeting areas, Student Activity Fair table, other NSO events (barbecues, frisbee, etc.). Make sure we have greeters on the lookout and ready to explain what’s happening at that event and how a new person could jump in. If we lure students to an InterVarsity event, we should make sure it’s one of the best things we offer (most engaging speaker, best event for interaction, etc.).

We need to be careful to not just add to the noise  (lots of groups will be using lures at activities fair, etc.). We want to stand out through acts of service: water bottles, snacks, battery charging, PokéGlo lights for playing in the dark: View idea  here. View an example of a Pokémon Go Service Station here. We could also try to stand out through fun: selfies with Pokemon cutout, drawings for Pokemon gifts, etc. 

Make sure the lure locations have good cell phone coverage for multiple mobile service providers, and set lures preferably at a time where the game servers are not acting up (this has been a slight problem as of late).

Group Adventures

Inspired by the San Francisco Pokémon Go Crawl (read more here), this would basically be a food crawl, but for visiting PokéStops and catching Pokémon. We could make this a campus tour for new students, or an opportunity to explore the local area (Baltimore Inner Harbor, local farmers market, etc.). We could also establish a Challenge Route, a defined path across campus where we set up InterVarsity people at each PokéStop, where we’ll offer supplies (water, snacks, cell phone charging) and a challenge (e.g. one-handed, one-legged, blindfolded, etc.). These could also be sites for  fun challenges between the different PokéTeams (Instinct, Mystic, Valor) or something as wild as a water balloon fight.

Regardless of where the group adventures take us, we must maintain a spirit of continuous invitation. As we go, we’ll continue to meet other players, and we should invite everyone to come along. No need to feel bad about this; the game mechanics seem to incentivize larger groups. (If you’d like more background on conversational evangelism, check out Beau Crosetto’s training here.)

As with any good NSO event, we want to make sure have a next event planned so we always know what we’ll invite to next, we should be sure to have a plan for capturing contact information, and we should hand out flyers for upcoming InterVarsity happenings.

Large Group Series

Pokémon Go is a massive cultural trend and we would be remiss to not address it. Possible angles on a Large Group series could include: What are the spiritual dimensions of collaborative play? Community springs from mission (not from sitting around talking about community). Pokémon Go make disciples. Gotta catch them all (fishers of people). What is something you desire and want to obtain, and how does that drive you? Are you willing to appear foolish for the sake of the gospel? What are the parallels between the gospel going forth and people playing Pokémon Go (viral ideas spreading with very little marketing)? Temporary victories (PokéGym control) and thrills (catching a rare) vs. treasure in heaven. To name a few possibilities.

In Digital Spaces

Make the most of the built-in image capture feature of Pokémon Go. Take screenshots (read how here) of Pokémon set against interesting backdrops (see how an art gallery managed this here). This is an opportunity to create a contest at Large Group (vote on best screenshots) or to advertise and promote InterVarsity events (have a sign with event info; put the sign behind Pokémon when capturing and taking screenshots). Post these images on social media and use three hashtags #PokemonGO #InterVarsityGO #[campus_hashtag]. Make sure you know your campus hashtag, such as #UWMadison, #UMich, #UCDavis, etc.)

Go where people are talking about the game, such as #PokemonGO on social media, Reddit, Discord. Bring InterVarsity into the conversations with #InterVarsityGO and your campus hashtag. Be sure to capture contact info and send out friend requests on your favorite social media platforms (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Pay attention online to find out where meetups are happening. Be sure to connect new social media contacts to the next InterVarsity events.

Concerns

  • We should be mindful of what we are modeling as we play together. We don’t want to appear as another mass of students trying to catch Pokémon; we want to be distinct in how we approach the game. We want to be know by our kindness, inclusion, and fun.
  • No matter how rare a Pokémon is, we should not violate InterVarsity’s Risk Management policy (or general common sense) to catch it.
  • We need to emphasize safety as we plan and as we play. While on our phones, we aren’t very observant and unpleasant things can happen. Hopefully being in a group helps to mitigate these risks, but only if we are intentionally and actively looking out for each other. There have already been reports of muggers targeting Pokémon Go players in addition to the possibility of walking into unsafe situations.
  • We need to keep in mind that walking around the United States is not equally safe for everyone. We should encourage playing in groups and keep watch that people don’t wander off on their own, especially at night, and especially women and students of color. The game distracts attention from our surroundings and makes players appear odd to police or campus safety officers. Stay in groups. [Update 7/25/16: Univ. of Iowa football player has Pokémon game end with police guns in his face; read here.]
  • We need to remember that there are places where it is not appropriate to play a game. (e.g. the Holocaust Museum). Make a list of places like this on our campus and respect them.
  • We need to be sure to maintain a pastor’s eye on the group. We want to be sure that we’re continually inviting new people, but we also want to be observant of our people are doing. We could easily gain participants who are physically present but socially isolated or emotionally distant. Leveling at different rates and catching different Pokémon could bring up different emotional responses for players. We want to make sure we’re caring for those in our midst.
  • We need to be mindful that not everyone will want to or be able to participate with us. We should never pressure or bully someone to play. We should do everything possible to include those with mobility difficulties. We should give utmost respect (in the form of space and silence) to those who are trying to study while we are playing.
  • If the whole Pokémon Go craze has blown over by NSO and no one else is playing, we should disregard all plans discussed here and go back to our normally scheduled NSO. [Update 7/25/16: Usage may have already peaked, but still a lot of players. Read here.]

Where can I read more?

General Interest:

  • What is Pokémon Go and Why is Everyone Talking About It? Here
  • 8 things Pokémon Go Doesn’t Tell You: Here
  • Will Pokémon Go last? Here
  • 14 Reasons Why Pokémon Go is the Future of Learning: Here

Churches/Ministry:

  • 8 Ways Churches Can Capitalize on Pokémon Go: Here
  • 4 Ways Your Church Can Use Pokémon Go Right Now: Here
  • 3 Reasons Pastors Should Care About Pokémon Go: Here
  • Pokémon Go and The Great Commission: Here
  • Pokémon Go in a Fractured and Flattened World: Here

Marketing/Business:

  • Pokémon Go Viral Marketing: Here
  • Pokémon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses. Here's How It Works: Here
  • Will Pokémon GO become a marketing platform for local businesses? Here
  • 4 Easy Ways Your Nonprofit Can Use Pokémon Go to Engage People: Here
Tags: