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 Diverse iKids of CA

 A significant change is taking place in California that signals a remarkable shift in its population. In times past, California’s population growth came from outside the state. After WWII, huge numbers of people drove west on Highway 66 from Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and other mid-western states to move to the golden state. “California here I come”, was a popular line for a song extolling the benefits of its weather, jobs, and an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Starting in the 1980s a new wave of people arrived from outside the state, this time from countries like Mexico, China, the Philippines, Tonga, and El Salvador. These first generation immigrants brought with them their rich cultures, foods, traditions, and languages that have transformed California into a creative tapestry that makes it a hub of innovation, diversity, and change.

But since 2000, the inflow of new residents has plateaued. This is most clearly seen in the population of its youngest generation. Since 2000 of 90% of the iKids Generation, those born since 2000, were born in California. Dowell Myers, in a USC Price report on “California’s Diminishing Resource: Children,” says, “Almost all CA children are born and raised in the state, unlike in past decades when many migrated from other states or nations. As these children grow into adulthood, they are beginning to remake the state. The historic transition to a “homegrown” majority is so recent, that its significance is not yet appreciated.”

While over 29% of California iKids have a least one parent who was born outside the United States, over 90% of them are Second Generation Americans. When looking at ethnicity some surprising information emerges. 91% of Whites, 94% of Blacks, 95% of Latinos, and 85% of Asians and Pacific Islanders iKids were born in California.

What does this mean for the future?

  1. In the past California’s growth was based on the inflow of new people from outside the state. Now is growth will be determined by the success of its own homegrown children. Economic success in the future will be based on how well California educates, trains, and equips its own children.
  2. While 52% are of Latino descent and 11% are of Asian descent, these Second Generation Americans see the world much differently from their parent’s generation. Churches, businesses, and educational institutions should realize the young Latinos and Asians of California are different than their parents. For most of them their primary language is English, they resonate with the American popular culture, and they share an American worldview.
  3. Because there are less people coming from outside the state, the percentage of children to the overall population is going down. This will be most clearly seen in the coming decades as the older adult population will skyrocket. In 2010 there were 22 senior adults per 100 people age 25 to 64. By 2050, when this generation will be in their prime earning years, there will be 46 older adults over 65 per 100 people who are 25 to 64.

Another study from the Pop Dynamics Research Group at the University of Southern California focused on the importance of developing intentional strategies for Second Generation Americans as they enter what they call the “Training Age” from age 18 to 24. This is when young adults go to college, trade schools, and have their first experience of work. From 2010 to 2030, 98% of the job growth in California will be attributed to Second Generation Americans. The study says, “This underscores how vital the second generation will be both as a source of labor forces and as the major source for replenishing the work force that would otherwise be depleted through increasing numbers of retirements.”

One of the primary places this information impacts is on California’s churches whose primary strategy over the years has been to reach newcomers to the state.  In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s the focus was on welcoming people from other states who carried with them mid-western worldviews and  were primarily white and black.  In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the focus was on reaching new immigrant populations by offering ministries in their native languages and who reflected the cultural heritage of the country from where they came.

Today’s generation of young people under the age of 30 in California are Second Generation, homegrown residents. They are the ones who are finding it difficult to find a place in California’s overcrowded colleges, who carry with them huge student dept, and will find it difficult to find housing in an expensive and competitive real estate market.  The future of the church will depend on its ability to connect with its homegrown population.  To reach this generation churches will need to pivot their approach to focus on the cultural norms and expectations of a diverse young adult and youth population whose main identity is Californian.  Not the California of the past, but a new California whose values and worldview is being re-imaged by a Second Generation whose cultural diversity defines them.

iKids and Halloween 1: The Business of Scare

In the spirit of horror movies, this will be a two part series

Scaring people is big business and this year is sure to break records as Halloween is celebrated on Friday, October 31st. This will generate record numbers of parties and trick-or-treaters as Halloween grows in popularity. How big is the business?

The National Retail Association gives us the numbers:

Total Sales of costumes, candy, and decorations: $7.4 billion ($6.9 in 2013)

Children’s Costumes: $1.1 billion (#1 Princess, #2 Animal, #3 Spider-Man, #4 Frozen Character

Adult Costumes: $1.4 billion (#1 Witch, #2 Animal, #3 Batman Character, #4 Pirate

Pet Costumes: $350 million (#1 Pumpkin, #2 Hot Dog, #3 Devil, #4 Bumble Bee)

Percentage of Americans attending a Halloween party: 33.4%
(approximately equal to the number of people who attend worship on a Sunday)

78% of 18-24 year-olds will dress in a costume (73% in 2013)

Perhaps the most interesting number that comes from their data is 33 million Americans will visit a neighborhood haunted house, a Halloween themed zoo, or a haunted theme park. What are people looking for? The more realistic the better. Universal Studios in Orlando gives us a flavor of what is offered. Their Halloween Horror Nights features experiences like, “The Walking Dead”, “Dollhouses of the Damned,” “Giggles and Gore, Inc.”, “Cannibal Colony”, and “Bayou of Blood.”

Why are people, primarily young adults and teens, flocking to these venues? According to The Haunted Attraction Association, in a press release on “The Psychology of Fear Final”, there are four primary reasons people like to be scared:

First, a longing for sensory experience and satisfaction. The adrenaline rush that comes from navigating a maze of zombies in real life rather than on a video game is irresistible to people who long for things that are real.   Using millions of dollars of state-of-the-art special effects, haunted theme creators amp up the sound and the images to create a life-threatening experience.

Second, people desire to experience something outside of the ordinary. John Edward Campbell, Assistant Professor at Temple University, says the pleasure people feel after surviving a scary experience, “provides a cathartic effect, offering you emotional release and escape from the real world of bills and mortgages and the economy and relationships.”

Third, its safe entertainment. While people know they will be frightened to death, intuitively they know they are still safe. So rather than feeling fear, they feel excitement.

Fourth, people are curious. The dark side has always had its appeal and haunted attractions look to fill the bill with the most elaborate experiences they can design.

While young adults and teens find their way to these venues, programs catering to children look to fit the bill by offering specials on TV like “Toy Story of Terror” and the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

The Disney Channel seeks to grab the attention of its young viewers by offering Monstober, a full month of Halloween themed TV shows and movies. Nickelodeon tries to do it one better with Shocktober, which features “Haunting Halloween Specials all month long.”

So brace yourself for the days ahead. Images of ghosts, witches, and screaming victims are sure to fill our imaginations as TV networks and horror venues seek to deliver the most scares per minute whether its on our screens or in a theme park, zoo, or haunted house near you.

So what’s the take away?

American young people are seeking vivid experiences, ones that grab hold of them and tell them they are alive, even if they have to slaughter vampires, kick ghouls, and run through mazes of terror to discover their hearts are still beating.

Coming up next week: iKids & Halloween 2: The Spirituality of Boo.