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Did the inventor of Pokémon actually say the game has Satanic roots?
EDIT: NO. THE ANSWER IS NO. (There, now you don’t have to scroll.)
Should Christians be playing a game that has reportedly has Satanic roots?
I wrote a blog post about Pokémon GO earlier this week, my friend Aaron Earls wrote one on his own blog and one at The Washington Post.
Aaron received a number of comments on his blog about the satanic roots of Pokémon. So, it’s time to dispel that myth.
A 2012 article on the gaming website Play4Real reads (EDIT: As of late 2016, the website is gone, so the link is an archive link):
In a rare interview with Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri, he admits that the games were created as a backlash against his Christian parents. He also says that the games are tailored towards an anti-Christian sentiment or Satanism.
The interview, conducted by Time about the continued success of the Pokémon series, took a sharp left turn when Tajiri was asked about the inspiration for the games. The following is an excerpt from the interview:
Time: What inspired you to start making the Pokémon games?
Tajiri: Well, my parents were Christians. I grew up being taught the ways of that religion. When I got older, I started to realize that the things they said were foolish and I guess I rebelled a little.
Time: How did you rebel?
Tajiri: I started to argue against their teachings. They tried to punish me in various ways to try to get me under control, but it didn’t work. This is when I was inspired by nature and started the basis for the Pokémon games.
Time: Could you explain how your parent’s religion is connected with the games?
Tajiri: Well, when I got old enough, I wanted to do something that would show the world that my parents were wrong. Something I saw in nature was the concept of evolution which my parents vehemently denied existed. This sparked the idea for a game that would go against everything my parents believed in.
Time: This game being Pokémon, correct?
Tajiri: Yes. Pokémon is essentially the correct answer towards life, not Christianity. Everything presented in the game is the opposite of what Christians may believe. Some have said that the game promotes voodoo or magic, and I agree in the sense that there are many things that occur in nature that are unexplainable. Furthermore, the violence in the games is unparalleled. It may not show up in the actual graphics, but the brutality is made especially explicit in the Pokédex entries. Nature, again, played a big role.
Time: So those who say that the game is anti-Christian are correct?
Tajiri: I suppose so. I mean, some could say that the game supports Satanism. I don’t officially celebrate it, but I can understand why people would be attracted to it.
Nintendo refused to comment on the interview.
Whoa! That’s some crazy stuff!
The problem is, it’s fake.
Play4Real, which calls itself “the world’s most premier video game journalism site” fabricated a 1999 TIME interview in their 2012 blog post. (EDIT: As of April 2017, Play4Real is defunct and the website is gone.)
Here is the 1999 TIME interview with Satoshi Tajiri, one of the founders of Game Freak, the company that is responsible for Pokémon. Below is an excerpt of the end of the interview, including a discussion which may have provided the inspiration for the fake Play4Real article:
TIME: Still, American kids like Pokémon, even without the blood.
Tajiri: I was really careful in making monsters faint rather than die. I think that young people playing games have an abnormal concept about dying. They start to lose and say, “I’m dying.” It’s not right for kids to think about a concept of death that way. They need to treat death with more respect.
TIME: Well, there’s a preacher in the U.S. who says Pikachu is the devil.
Tajiri: I never heard of that! [Laughs] I heard there was a guy who criticized [kid’s book character] Harry Potter because of the magic. But I saw the author, and she seemed really nice. The critic seemed like a grouchy mean guy.
Just think for a second: there are 721 Pokémon to date, with more coming this fall, and not a single one of them has a devilish or Satanic sort of name or makeup. That’s remarkable.
A Christian radio host named Rick Wiles and his production crew for the program “True News,” came up with the wild idea that radical Islamists, namely ISIS, would use the demon Pokémon in the Pokémon GO app to target churches. Don’t believe me? Listen here:
Wiles goes as far to say that the Poké(de)mons may be intentionally placed in pastors, elders, and Sunday school leaders homes—seriously—so that these people may be targeted by ISIS, overlord of the Poké(de)mons. Oh, and then he encourages listeners to download the app.
Beyond such erroneous accusations, there is truly good to be found in playing Pokémon GO.
Pokémon engages the imagination of all who play it, whether it be the adventurous child or the reminiscent adult. My wife and I just moved to a new town. We’ve been learning how to get around town by going to different places to catch Pokémon. Just yesterday I spent an hour hiking a nature trail around the corner from my house to find Pokémon. I’ve meet a dozen people from all different backgrounds.
Trevin Wax wrote about Pokémon the other day, commenting on the transcendence found in Pokémon:
In a secular age, it is common for people to conceive of the world in terms of scientific cause and effect. We are less likely to be stunned by the magnificence of this world, and more likely to feel as if we are only cogs in a naturalistic machine. The secular mind, due to its rationalist foundation, must create meaning rather than discover it.
But suddenly, a game based on Japanese mythology invades the naturalistic machinery of the modern age. Pokémon envisions the world as if it were filled with kami that resemble the Greek gods of old. The creatures inhabit trees, rivers, and rocks, similar to the ancient Norse or Celtic myths that described a world teeming with fairies and elves. When you take the ancient myths that gave us fantastic animals such as centaurs and unicorns and place them within the animistic worldview of Shintoism, you start to see why the Eastern world of Pokémon feels both strange and familiar.
Part of Pokémon’s appeal goes back to childhood fascination with fairy tales, which we never fully outgrow. As G. K. Chesterton wrote:
“We all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. When we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough.”
When my kids and I followed Pokémon tracks around the neighborhood in search for these mythical creatures, we noticed we were more aware of our surroundings. The bird that swooshed past us and alighted in a tree was more glorious than any Pidgey we found on the phone. I noticed three butterflies of different colors on my walk yesterday – insects I would have failed to marvel at had my senses not been heightened thanks to Pokémon Go.
Play4Real’s article is a lie, and Christians have taken the bait because it confirms their preconceived notions that an imaginative video game is bad for their children.
Contrary to popular opinion, not everything you read on the internet is true.
When Christians share articles like Play4Real’s Pokémon-is-Satanic fabrication, we are bearing false witness, knowingly or unknowingly. Before you share content, especially content from a site with which you’re unfamiliar, you need to use discernment and check the content against other sources.
False news is wrong, and it makes whoever shares it look foolish and naïve. Don’t be tricked and cry wolf. Use discernment.