In a weekend, Pokémon GO has already taken our smartphones by storm. But where did it come from?
On the one hand, this is a simple question to answer: Nintendo. Pokémon is a game franchise created by Nintendo, and Pokémon GO is the newest installment.
But Pokémon GO isn’t just more of the same. It’s a revolutionary innovation.
Using the camera function on people’s phones, the world of the game is our world. The eponymous monsters appear on the screen as hiding in plain sight. People catch them, train them, fight them, trade them, and so on, just like in previous games. But now the game itself is causing people to get out of their homes and see new scenery, meet new people. (more…)
On this day in Japan 20 years ago, Nintendo introduced the gaming system, among the first consoles to create realistic-looking 3D worlds filled with monsters, soldiers, and blood. It’s standard game design today, but at that point, it was new and exciting.
Before the Nintendo 64’s launch, gamers were largely forced into games with pixelated graphics and basic gameplay that required scrolling around a screen and solving basic puzzles. The Nintendo 64, which notched more than 30 million units sold over its lifetime, was a sign of bigger and better things to come.
Yet he notes that it wasn’t the most successful console at the time:
If sales are the sole guide of success, the Nintendo 64 was a middling performer. The nearly 33 million units it sold is notably lower than the 62 million Nintendo Entertainment Systems sold and the 49 million Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems the company sold.
While the Nintendo 64’s sales were more than the Sega Saturn, which could only muster 9 million unit sales over its lifetime, Sony sold 102.5 million PlayStation units while competing with the Nintendo 64.
There are a lot of things that Nintendo tried with the N64 that didn’t really work in their favor. But Nintendo’s willingness to take such risks, and their general product differentiation (for example, their massively successful Pokémon series debuted just one year earlier for Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld console, spawning a cartoon and a card game) make it an outstanding example in the long run … not only economically, but (metaphorically) spiritually as well. (more…)
A friend of mine recently shared this short clip of Thomas Merton’s last lecture. He has some interesting things to say about communism and monasticism, as well as what is clearly a sly promo for Coca-Cola at the end.
“From now on, brothers, everybody stands on his own feet.” This would be a great summary statement of what the monastic vow of poverty actually meant to most monks, historically. With regards to monasteries being the only places that have ever fulfilled the socialist ideal “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” I would add that they were able to do this because they valued the division of labor and the potential good of enterprise.
Monasteries, ancient and medieval, were centers of production, invention, and exchange, in addition to faith and worship. We may often think of the Scriptures and works of literature, philosophy, or theology that they copied in their scriptoria, but these same communities have also left us volumes of financial records, documenting extensive holdings in land and capital, as well as ventures in banking, lending, and long distance trade.
For one monk’s take on the good of commerce, see my recent Acton Commentary, “The Monk as Merchant,” here.
Also, I’ll be lecturing again on “Markets & Monasticism” at this year’s Acton University, our summer conference. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to learn more about it here.
Today at Ethika Politika, I examine some ancient economic wisdom from one of the desert fathers: Abba Pistamon. Far from the newest of Nintendo’s Pokemon monsters (despite the sound of his name), Abba Pistamon was one of the first Christian monks. The dialogue between him and an unnamed brother that I examine from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers has a lot to say about production, labor, profit, and exchange.
Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange.
For some, the one quality most important for those pursuing a religious vocation is awesomeness. It matters not whether clergy, nuns and other religious adhere to the actual doctrines of their faith, whether they advocate for the poor and powerless and spread the Word of God. Specifically, Jo Piazza, author of the absurdly titled If Nuns Ruled the World, authored an advertisement disguised as a Time opinion piece for her recently released book. The Vatican, according to Piazza, doesn’t fairly recognize the awesomeness of nuns who stray from Roman Catholic doctrine in pursuit of progressive policy goals. And, according to Piazza, that’s bad. Very, very bad indeed. Because, you know, the activist sisters are really pretty darn awesome.
Rather, it’s far better to chase celebrity while sprinkled with the progressive fairy dust of awesome as are so many of the shareholder activist nuns who, in Piazza’s words, “make corporations responsible to the human race.” These selfless and progressive nuns, Piazza gushes, “don’t brag about all of the good that they do or hashtag how awesome they are on Facebook, many people have no idea about the things they accomplish on a daily basis.” (more…)
The ascetical tradition of the Orthodox Church includes many practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, keeping vigil, inter alia. They are the active part of the spiritual life, our voluntary cooperation with the grace of God. As such, it is important that we not be tempted to use the ascetical practices of the Church for ends they were not designed to serve. Thus, we need to be careful of “environmental consciousness” masquerading as authentic spiritual practice. Moreover, we must keep in mind that it is the believer’s practice of asceticism, not asceticism qua asceticism, that is important. (more…)
It is becoming increasingly common for theologians to recommend asceticism as a more eco-friendly lifestyle, as Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss note in their recent monograph, Creation and the Heart of Man. And that, no doubt, it can be.
However, as Butler and Morriss point out, it is very important, from an Orthodox perspective at least, to understand precisely what asceticism is. Rightly understood, they note, “to be ascetic is to learn to live rightly on the earth with God, our neighbor, and creation.” (more…)