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Catholic Group Launches Saint-Collecting Pokémon GO-Inspired Game

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

The hugely successful Pokémon GO game has spawned knockoffs here and there due to its widespread popularity. The original app takes players on adventures all over the world. But instead of players wondering "Where was that witch-hat Pikachu?," a new Pokémon GO-inspired app would rather have users ask "What would Jesus do?"

Fundación Ramón Pané, a Florida-based Catholic evangelical group, launched the Follow JC Go! app for iOS and Android devices on October 17. Similar to Pokémon GO, the augmented reality game encourages players to travel around the real world in order to collect saints, Marian devotions, Bible characters, and other figures. Players can answer Catholic trivia questions in order to get the characters they meet to join their eTeams (evangelization teams). For example, Moses might ask players, "Was it me who said: 'My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?'" (No. It was Jesus.)

Though the Vatican did not develop the app, Pope Francis is reportedly a fan. Ricardo Grzona, executive director of Fundación Ramón Pané, said that the pope was introduced to the app on October 16. Grzona said, "You know Francis is not a very technological person, but he was in awe, he understood the idea, what we were trying to do: combine technology with evangelization.”

If papal approval is not enough, José Domingo Ulloa, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Panama, has offered his support. The app was created in preparation for World Youth Day, a Catholic youth event that will be held in Panama on January 22-27. Ulloa wanted to make technology an important aspect of the upcoming event.

The app has been in development since August 2016, and it cost US$500,000 to produce. A team of 43 designers, theologians, Bible experts, Church historians, and engineers devoted about 32,000 hours of work to the app before its launch. The app is currently only available in Spanish, but English, Italian, and Portuguese releases are planned.

As players collect Catholic figures, they can meet friends, move up rankings, and interact with real-world locations. When users are near churches, the app encourages them to visit, and when they reach hospitals, it reminds them to pray for those inside. Players can also collect water, food, and spirituality in order to level up their avatars.

Reviews of the app have been mixed so far. Many commenters are criticizing bugs and bemoaning the app's lack of support in other languages. Some fans are excited about the game's potential to educate users about the Catholic faith.

Pokémon GO has reportedly been downloaded 800 million times, but there are 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. The monster catching game has a ways to go before it encroaches on the full potential player base of Follow JC Go!. On the other hand, fans may wonder what would happen if Follow JC Go! characters appeared in Pokémon GO. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, would probably have a thing or two to say about the way Pokémon Trainers treat their creatures.

Sources: Corriere Della Sera (Alessio Lana), Crux (Inés San Martín), BBC

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