'Pikachurch': Get thee to church to catch that Pokémon

First look at "Pokémon GO"Niantic/The Pokemon Company

There's been a laughing, smiling and even a surfing Pikachu. Now it seems we've got to get used to "Pikachurch".

Players of the newest Pokémon game released this week are discovering to their shock that, in many cases, to catch their prey they have no choice but to go to church. 

The new game for iOS and Android mobile devices, Pokémon Go, released this week in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, but sadly not yet in the UK or Europe, allows players to hunt and catch wild Pokémon in a virtually-rendered "augmented reality" version of the real world.

According to reports from the first players of the new games, a lot of wild Pokémon are turning up in or near churches, as are the gyms where trainers can battle and level-up their charges and the Pokémarts where players buy new Pokéballs, treats for their beasts, fighting gear and more.

Not all Christian leaders have always been the greatest of fans of Pokémon.

But all Pokémon players have understood there is a strong spiritual element to the game.

Since its beginnings as Pokémon Red, Blue, Green, Silver and Gold, there has been a strong element of traditional mysticism and old religion, such as the quest to catch the endearingly aggressive serpent Rayquaza at the top of a fairy-tale tower in the middle of an ocean.

The most persistent players can learn the virtues of forbearance, loyalty, persistence, courage, wisdom, stewardship, planning, mathematics and, especially in the Pokémon breeding programmes, complex analytics.

Water Pokémon will be found near rivers and lakes, for example, grass ones near grass, and presumably ghost-types along with legendaries and the others will be those at churches. 

The challenge is to catch and tame them without killing them. Then players "level up" the Pokémon by battling players they meet in the game.

According to Kotaku, as many as seven in 10 of the catching sites, or Pokéstops, in the new game are churches.
"Actually, a lot of Pokémon Go players are being directed to churches so that they may collect new monsters and more items. Given Pokémon's rocky history with spiritual matters, not to mention the sheer touchiness of religion, this has turned into a strange gameplay experience," wrote Patricia Hernandez.

Team YP tweeted:

Kotaku tweeted:

Heather tweeted:

Not everyone is impressed:

Christian Today has chucked a virtual Pokéball to Nintendo with a message asking for a comment but to date, it seems to be lying neglected in the long grass.