It might be fun to try and track down Pikachu or Mewtwo, but a Catholic evangelical group wants to you follow Jesus Christ instead—at least virtually, for starters, through a new Pokémon Go-inspired app called Follow JC Go.
The game, which launched on Oct. 19, is based on the hugely popular Pokémon-catching game. But instead of collecting as many Pokémon as possible, players must try and find saints, biblical characters, and other religious figures to add to their Evangelization Team, known as an eTeam, and complete in-game challenges. Similar to Pokémon Go, Follow JC Go uses GPS to detect a user’s location in the city.
The game was developed by Fundación Ramón Pané, a foundation dedicated to evangelization, in preparation for World Youth Day 2019, an international Catholic event focused on youth. According to Crux Now, a Catholic publication, Pope Francis reportedly commended the app when it was presented to him in Rome earlier this month.
“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,” Ricardo Grzona, executive director of Fundación Ramón Pané, told Crux Now.
One of the principle ways that a player can advance is by answering religious questions correctly when he or she encounters a biblical character (for instance, Moses might ask you to correctly attribute a quote from the bible). The game also tries carry pious acts out of the virtual world into the real one: When the player is near a church in real life, they are prompted to stop and say a prayer, and users can also donate money to charity through the app.
There is currently only a Spanish version of the game, but versions in English and other languages are planned for the future. The Spanish rollout makes sense—next year’s World Youth day will take place in Panamá. Furthermore, Hispanics make up 40% of Catholics in the US, and Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. (Spanish is also Pope Francis’ native tongue.)
This is not the first time that Pokémon Go has inspired app developers. Earlier this year Snapchat hid more than one million virtual eggs to get users on a Pokémon Go-style Easter hunt. And while the evangelization aspect of Follow JC Go might seem a far cry from getting fictional creatures to do battle, Pokémon Go has been praised for its educational potential before. It has been touted as a way to teach people about ecology and conservation, and has even been credited with teaching kids about augmented reality.
And while the name Follow JC Go seems like an homage to the original game’s title, maybe something more direct will be on the cards soon.