The Nintendo Switch Just Reinvented Gaming

Today’s reveal of the new Nintendo Switch gaming system brings into focus five lessons every church leader needs to know to connect with millennial and iKids generations.  The new system, which will be available in March 2017, features a video of people in their twenties using the new gaming system to interact in multiple ways with their friends.  Here are five things we can learn about the thinking behind the system:

  1. Gaming is not just for children and teenagers.
    The gamers in the video reveal of the new system are people in their twenties who show how the versatility the Nintendo Switch fits into their on-the-go, in-the-moment lifestyle. While Nintendo’s previous systems were marketed to children and families, the Switch is clearly targeted to youth and young adults.
  2. Flexibility is a core value.
    The Switch is a hybrid of the traditional gaming systems like PlayStation or Xbox and a portable module, like the widely successful Nintendo DS system. First, it can be played like a traditional gaming system as it is hooked up to a TV. Second, its controllers can seamlessly be connected to a tablet with what looks like an 8-inch screen, which turns it into a portable gaming system that can be played anywhere.  Third, the two controllers can be removed to allow two players to play the same game as they look at the tablet. Fourth, it can be linked to other switches to allow multiple player gaming.
  3. The Switch fosters relationships.
    The Switch explodes the myth that gamers are lonely misfits who waste their time playing video games in the confines of their parents’ basements. Instead, its portability and the configuration of the controllers fits into a different narrative – gaming is about connecting with friends.
  4. The game doesn’t stop.
    In one section of the video, a gamer continues to play the same game as he moves through a variety of locations. With the Switch, you don’t have to pause.  The game continues from a ride in an airplane, a ride in a car, to your TV at your home.
  5. Its about the experience.
    While people may fixate on the release of a revolutionary gaming system, the goal of the gaming system is to create immersive experiences through which stories of valor, of overcoming, and finding hope give people meaning and purpose.

Questions for church leaders:

  1. What does Nintendo’s focus on creating a system for youth and young adults tell you of the importance of connecting with this generation?
  2. How flexible is your programing for youth and youth adults? Do you offer multiple options and places where people can connect with your ministry?
  3. How are you fostering the creation of meaningful and healthy relationships?
  4. How do you help people discover that their relationship with Jesus is an ongoing process that is active no matter where they are? How do you teach people to have daily and ongoing prayer, to read the Scripture in a way that informs everything they do, and to see each encounter with another person as an opportunity to share God’s love and grace?
  5. How are you turning your worship services into transformational experiences and creating multiple small groups and outreach group experiences where people can integrate their spirituality with their daily living?

 

 

Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age and Director of Congregational Development at Discipleship Ministries with the United Methodist Church

The Legend of Zelda Symphony, a Spiritual Experience

Little did I know when I bought tickets to Zelda for my son for Christmas, that we would be at the world premier of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – Master Quest. When we walked into the Schermerhorn Concert Hall where the Nashville Symphony plays, I realized this was a different experience. First, there was a giant LCD Monitor hanging in the concert hall with images on the screen from the popular Zelda video game series created by Nintendo. Second, this was not your usual symphony crowd. It was made up of twenty-somethings and teenagers.  Many were wearing Zelda costumes. Third, the orchestra was not in tuxes, but dressed in black with open collars.

And then the concert started. As images from the Zelda video game series flashed on the screen the orchestra provided the live background music that greatly enhanced the experience. On top of that the Nashville Symphony Chorus added to the mix when they vocalized sounds that created a tapestry of moods from anger to love, from war to peace.

If the goal of Jason Michael Paul, the producer of the event was to capture the imagination, he was quite successful. My son and his fellow concertgoers were on the edges of their seats as scenarios from the 30-year history of the Zelda series unfolded through sight and sound. When we think of video games, we tend to focus on the visual elements, the puzzles that need to be solved, and the quests that need to be completed. What this concert brought to the forefront was the essential role music plays to create the atmosphere of the game.

This was most clearly seen in The Symphony: Movement IV – Time of the Falling Rain. The music was from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a game released in 1992. The graphics were what you expect from a game created in the early nineties, nothing compared to the images we see in today’s games. But as the music played, it didn’t matter. On the original game the music is rendered on a synthesizer with limited musical intonation. But when played by a full orchestra with the accompanying voices of the chorus, it became an immersive experience that pulled you into the heroic efforts of Link to rescue Zelda who is imprisoned in Hyrule Castle. As Link moves between the Light World to the Dark World, the music matched its intensity. And when Link finally conquers his foes, he touches the Triforce to restore the world to what it was before evil tried to destroy it.

As I left the concert hall I was impressed by the quality of the event and how meshing the new with the old, the video game with the symphony, created a spiritual experience that captured the story that is as old as time. The hero who conquers evil in the name of good. The spiritual power that gives guidance and hope in the midst of adversity. The desire to be part of something that is bigger than oneself.

As we were riding home from the concert I could hear a lot of pinging sounds in the backseat. I asked my son what was going on. He had taken his Nintendo DS Game system with him and left it on during the concert. Silently it had connected with over 100 other gamers who had attended with their devices. He was capturing their avatars and replying to them.   In many ways he was taking the experience home with him and I was briefly connected with a world much different from my own, a world full of experience, meaning, and connection that goes beyond our physical limitations.

iKids Gamers: Here comes the Amiibos!

With the release of the Amiibo figurines, Nintendo is entering into the lucrative toys-to-life category pioneered by Activision’s Skylanders and emulated by Disney Infinity. Today, Nintendo fans will be able to get their hands on their favorite characters. Mario, Link, Kirby, Princess Peach, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong are among the first toys to be released.

The toys are designed to use with the Wii U and allows characters to come alive and enhance the capabilities of their characters in video games like Super Smash Bros., Hyrule Warriors, and Mario Kart 8.

Activision was the first company to create a way for plastic molded figures to become action characters in a video game. In the Skylanders system, gamers take a plastic toy figure, like Spyro, and place it on a portal that connects to a game system like the PlayStation, the Xbox, or the Wii U. Once the figure is put on the portal, the character appears on the screen (think of Star Trek when Captain Kirk is beamed from the spaceship Enterprise to a planet).   Now the gamer uses his or her character to defeat enemies in the Skylanders video game. How successful has this been? Skylanders has generated more than $2 billion since the fall of 2011 and sold more than 175 million toys.

Disney Infinity, which was launched in 2013, has used the same technology to bring classic Disney characters alive to the tune of over $500 million in sales and just recently released Disney Infinity 2.0 featuring characters from Marvel.

Gamers, both children and adults alike, have made this new category of toys a lucrative part of the toy merchandizing scene. Companies like Toy “R” Us, Wall-Mart, and Target feature huge displays that seek to inspire sales. This Christmas season will be sure to capture even more gamers as Nintendo enters this emerging market.

Why is the toy-to-life strategy so successful?

  1. People are looking for the real.   In a digital age where images are transitory, being able to hold in your hands a carefully crafted figure that represents the essence of the character makes the video game seem more significant.
  2. People long for meaning. Video games are not simply games; they are immersive stories of heroism, good vs. bad, and spiritual attainment. Holding a character in your hand and then playing as that character in a game intensifies the lessons learned in the gaming experience. Nintendo’s tag line for the Amiibo says it all, “Discover the power inside.”
  3. People desire icons of significance. Since time immortal, humans have crafted physical icons that represent their values, beliefs, and deepest longings. Being able to place Mario, Link, Princes Elsa, Mickey Mouse, Spider-man, or Spryo next to your beside takes the video game experience with you and becomes a frame of reference as you battle your own personal villains and seek to overcome life’s obstacles.