WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Game Review

Three years ago, a little game called Pokémon Go exploded onto smartphones everywhere like a Charizard after a weeklong chili pepper binge. That augmented-reality game, created by a company called Nantic, was an unexpectedly huge hit. And people have been wearing out touchscreens, while running around their neighborhoods gathering up virtual beasties, ever since.

Moneymaker? Oh yeah, it made a bit. Last year at this time, Forbes reported that in its first two years, the little Poké-game-that-could pulled in almost two billion dollars from in-game purchases. And it’s still generating income to the tune of some $2 million a day.

So, if you had any question about why Nantic was eager to create another one of these mobile games, you can consider that query answered. Besides, this time it’s all about Harry. Potter, that is.

Trading Poké Balls for Magic Wands

Let’s see … source material with a rabid fan base? Check. A list of recognizable characters who advance the famed storyline (if only a bit)? Check. The ability to kinda, sorta put yourself in the shoes of a budding wizard with his or her own skill sets? Check. A creative, location-based AR experience? Check.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite appears to check all the boxes that a hungry Potter devotee might want. Just sub in wands and spells for Poké balls, wizards for trainers and fantastic beasts for pocket monsters and you’re ready to lay claim to another fanboy kingdom, right? Well, maybe.

So, what exactly is happening in this game?

When you open the game app, you get the gist of things pretty quickly: Harry Potter and Co. need you to help them deal with a wizardly problem called The Calamity. Someone has mysteriously ripped a hole in the fabric of things, and magical items called Foundables are dribbling into our non-magical realm and then being held in place by dark spells called Confoundables.

Still with me? Good. Keep reading.

Is All That Casting Catching?

To solve these sorcery conundrums, players must wander their real-world locales gazing at their AR-infused phone screens. When objects pop up, they will attempt to return (or “catch” in Poké parlance) Foundables (Pokémon) by casting spells (throwing Pokéballs) to defeat the dark forces on hand. Then they add the magical items to their registry (Pokédex). With each success, players gain rewards and XP boosts and slowly upgrade their personal wizards (trainers).

In addition to Foundables, officially described as “magical artifacts, creatures, people, and even memories,” players also gather frog brains, newt spleens, poison roots and other bits for potion-concocting in a cauldron. Those magical potions (similar to the various Berries in Pokémon Go) enable healing and increase your wizard's ability to return the Foundables you'll encounter. Along the way, players will also look for Inns and Greenhouses (two different variations on Pokéstops), where they’ll be awarded small amounts of spell energy (Pokéballs) and other wizardly ingredients with which to craft those potions that boost their spell-casting moxie.

There are also things called Portmanteaus (Eggs) that can be discovered and picked up. And gamers use keys (Egg Incubators) to unlock these doodads; then, after walking around a requisite distance (once again 2, 5 and 10 kilometers), those Portmanteaus yield rare Foundables. And let’s not forget those in-map Fortresses (Gyms) where young wizards can team up (with Friends) to take on more powerful dark creatures, wizards and witches (Gym Battles).

Of course, two of the main activities here are all those tossed-about spells and mano-a-mano fortress battles. There are no words or phrases uttered verbally, but rather lightning-like, bluish-white glyphs (each with its own name) appear on the phone screen for you to trace with your finger. The faster and more accurately a player traces the glyph, the stronger the cast. The glyphs also show up when visiting Inns, Greenhouses and Fortresses. In those Fortress battles, however, there are both offensive and defensive casts, and you can swig health potions to stay upright.

On top of those basics, Wizards Unite has multiple layers and other menus to tap into and deal with. There are daily assignments that award items and XP, Wizard profession lesson plans to “buy,” potions to stew up, and other magicky bonuses to fiddle with.

Spelling out the Problems

If you’re a Pokémon Go player, you’re, uh, catching the similarities of the two games, I’m sure. They have some cash inclinations in common, too. Like Pokémon Go, this game is promoted as being free. But are there really any free rides these days? Even Harry would blush at that.

The gameplay formula starts out fun and easy as you go about gathering up Hagrid’s umbrella, a Flesh-Eating Slug or a mummified Hand of Glory. But pretty quickly, it becomes clear that to really excel and achieve the levels and rewards that you're seeking, in-game purchases become nearly essential—much more so than was the case with Pokémon Go.

For instance, storage "vaults" for potion ingredients, spell-casting energy and other necessities max out pretty quickly. Meanwhile, you'll also burn through spells and potions much more quickly that you would in Pokémon Go. You can buy more capacity, of course, but you pay quite a lot for a very small upgrade. And who wants to grind and grind when a smidgen of real-world gold can buy a bucket of in-game cash or other needed bits you can’t seem to find.

As I mentioned in a blog earlier this week, an adult friend of mine noted that he’d only been playing Wizards Unite for a few days before investing 30 bucks or so. And the expended booty can easily grow from there.

But that's just one of the problems here. There is one other big element that parents in particular ought to be considering before downloading this game to their phone. And it really doesn’t involve game mechanics as much as game content.

No, there are no bloody massacres to worry about here. But the magic component of play is, frankly, one-dimensional and constant. Unlike the relationship-focused, self-sacrificial adventures of characters in the Harry Potter books and movies, the major thrust here is nothing more than continual spell-casting, potion making, and dark-'n'-creepy item gathering. Sure, it’s all done in the context of a fantasy world we're likely familiar with already. Still, various permutations of witchcraft and sorcery infuse this particular game a bit more frequently than the stories it's based upon. Vampires, werewolves and other vaguely nasty creatures turn up pretty regularly, too.

Let’s face it: We live in a culture that glorifies and promotes the creepy-crawly joy of dark magic and the occult. No matter how lightly that all may be handled here, the effect of it can still raise a kid’s curiosity about magic and wizardry. And any curiosity raised on that front can be something potentially satisfied through worldly falsehood before the church or your family can satisfy it with truth.

And that … is a problem. Even if it’s just a silly smartphone game.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Smartphone

Publisher

Niantic

Released

June 21, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!