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Even the Westboro Baptist Church Is Into ‘Pokémon Go,' as its Global Rollout Remains on Hold

Even if God did hate all those people, he's probably a bit too busy to care right now, zeroing in on a Drowzee.

Mike Diver

Mike Diver

Isn't Pokémon Go great? With all of that going outside business. Meeting people. Making friends. Potentially getting mugged. Maybe finding a dead dude facedown in a ditch. Hanging out beside world-famous monuments in crowds of thousands. Great.

It's all going entirely excellently for its San Francisco–headquartered makers Niantic. Less well for British Pokémon fans pissed that it's not officially out over here in the UK, but come on, seriously. If I can find a way to get it onto my phone, and catch a Bulbasaur in my hallway at half-time during the Euros' moth invasion, given that I can barely turn on a television, you'll absolutely cakewalk it. Life, uh, finds a way, right?

Everyone is at it, basically. Its popularity has seen the share price of Nintendo—who don't directly have anything to do with the mobile augmented reality app, but do have a stake in the Pokémon Company—go up by almost a quarter in a single day. The app is now on more phones in the US than Tinder, and is getting close to surpassing the number of daily active users Twitter has on Android devices. That's Twitter. Blimey.

And now renowned ambassadors of intolerance, the Westboro Baptist Church—that angry anti-homosexuality lot, with the placards and the hair, elevated to recognition in the UK courtesy of Louis Theroux's 2007 documentary, The Most Hated Family in America—is using the game to spread its message of, um... its message of... yeah. Its message. Have a look (and, obviously, don't play the Vine itself, which is very NSFW, not to mention outright offensive to the largest majority of human beings).

[tweet text="Pikachu wants to warn his neighbor! https://t.co/ljOjgI7tPG#quote #PokemonGO
*Pikachu, I mean YOU are going to hell 'cept you REPENT!*" byline="— Westboro Baptist (@WBCSaysRepent)" user_id="WBCSaysRepent" tweet_id="752492167013085185" tweet_visual_time="July 11, 2016"]

Pikachu, of course, is no creature of evil, and will no doubt be consulting his lawyers about this heinous abuse of his image rights. (I mean, there was that "Hell March" that one time, but that's in the past, right buddy?)

The Westboro Church itself, its compound in Topeka, Kansas, was assigned gym status by Pokémon Go and subsequently taken over by a Clefairy called "LOVEISLOVE". This act of, well, trolling basically, did not go down well with the WBC, leading not only to the above-embedded tweet but several before it (which we're not about to link you directly to, but you know where to find them).

Pokémon Go is expected to come out in the UK, officially, in the next couple of days. In the meantime, either do your best to ignore it—good luck—or just bite the bullet as I did and join the party through the backdoor. It's a lot easier to download on Android than it is iOS, but here's a handy guide to getting it on your iPhone. Because, really, what's the worst that could happen? (OK, I suppose walking off a pier because your face is entirely focused on your smartphone screen would be pretty bad. Pokémon Go users: Always wear armbands. But seriously, do be aware of your surroundings when using this thing, because the first Pokémon Go death is something that nobody wants to be reporting on.)

All of this activity is causing a few headaches, though. As we wrote in this article, the Pokémon Go's servers are struggling with player demand, and the app commonly crashes. These teething problems are being worked on by Niantic—"We thought the game would be popular, but it obviously struck a nerve," said the company's CEO John Hanke, defining the meaning of understatement—which is why the official UK rollout for the app is on hold right now. Looking around London, though, on this balmy Monday, it's pretty clear that hundreds of street-walking monster-hunters are already well on the way to catching them all.

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