While a statement ending in ??is banned in Saudi Arabia? may not be particularly shocking, for Pok?mon fans, the reasoning behind the religious opposition against the game is what is most puzzling.
The Pok?mon Go craze has plagued the globe since its release, and while the mainstream majority are slowly dropping out, the game has truly taken the mobile gaming world by storm. If you are curious about the unique Pok?mon available in Saudi Arabia, the only place you will be finding fellow Red Team members is in their local prisons and no, there are no Pok?mon Gyms there.
The question you are probably asking yourself is why? In addition to being the mobile craze of 2016, the game has also caught the attention of the Islamic Council of Senior Scholars, who specially studied this case. The Council studied established fatwas, Islamic religious laws, to determine whether or not the game is in violation with Islamic fundamentals.
Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan took it upon himself to investigate if the Pok?mon Go is in any way like the older versions of the game that have already been condemned for violating Islamic laws. How he conducted his investigation without playing the game and violating his religious code of ethics is a mystery, although per Arab News he found the games to encourage gambling and polytheism.
While a small child in all of us loves Pikachu, likening this to the worship of multiple gods is arguably a bit of a stretch. The gambling accusation, on the other hand, which stems from the original Pok?mon card game?s rules, is somehow even more difficult to understand. Especially because the sheikh found the Pok?mon Go more similar to the card games than to any of the video games which are 100% legal and sold in the country.
As we all know, Pok?mon back in the day involved playing on cards as opposed to the modern-day smartphone battery consuming, GPS tracking and internet cheating kind of way. The link between the classic Pok?mon card game and casino games is that players need to compete for cards with differing values and risk losing their Pok?mon during battles. If you were like most kids in the 90’s then you may have developed some serious gambling skills, according to the Saudi law. So long as you don?t live there you should try your luck at some of these actual casino games. ?Unfortunately, there is no casino version Pok?mon game out there? yet!
Joking aside, this loose association to gambling would make you wonder what other games are banned in Saudi Arabia. It seems that there are plenty, from the entire Grand Theft Auto series for more obvious reasons such as the option for players to purchase a hooker, to?Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for portraying Arabs negatively. Sadly, the entire God of War was also banned, but mainly for the use of the word ?God? in the game title which seems like a small detail SCE?s marketing department could have modified.
If you like games and live in Saudi Arabia, make sure to avoid the word ?God?, all card-like games that involve trading, and negative portrayals of Arabs to stay on the legal side of things.