Pokémon Go, released yesterday by Niantic Labs, is essentially a cross between traditional exercise-tracking mobile apps and a game. In order to “catch ‘em all,” you need to explore the game’s virtual world (which, in real life, means you have to do some walking). As you move around, so does your character, alerting you to any Pokémon lurking nearby and encouraging you to head in that same direction. In order to gear up with all the things you’ll need in the virtual world, like Poké Balls, you have to find real-life locations that double as PokéStops in the simulation.
At any rate, some users on Twitter have noticed that a lot of the PokéStops, gyms, and other in-game locations are real-life churches.
Why so many churches? You might think it’s an obvious place to learn about mythical creatures with supernatural abilities… but the real reason is even more straightforward: the game draws on a database of user-supplied data created for a previous game, Ingress, by the same company. In other words, your experience will be shaped by what players of the previous game uploaded. In some areas, players will see more churches; in others, less. (I can’t tell you where my local landmarks are, as every time I’ve been on break, I’ve hit server issues. I did, however, find a Charmander in my backyard after I got home, so it’s all good.)
Pokémon collectors directed to churches seem to be taking it all in good humor. In some cases, very good humor.
My first two pokestops on Pokemon Go were at a church and thought God was telling me something. Then my 3rd was KFC and I knew he was right
— Jared Smith (@_jaredsmith13) July 7, 2016
So the church next to my house is a PokeStop in Pokemon Go which means I can finally tell my grandma about all the time I spend at church.
— Bebo (@GameWireWarrior) June 9, 2016
Downloaded Pokémon Go and it told me my nearest shop was in our local church down the road. Nice try, God!
— ✨ Reaperfox ✨ (@Reaperfox) July 6, 2016
Aside from creating a clever means of giving us a reason to look forward to exercising, Niantic may have inadvertently come up with the best reason in years for atheists to go to church.
(Screenshot via YouTube)