I hung out with my 12-year-old sister for a couple hours last weekend. We used to play video games with each other all the time but these days she prefers to watch me play. I don’t think that’s as fun. We’re so close that being in each other’s company is a memorable experience on its own, but I miss the days when we would spend hours playing Rayman Origins together or sending doodles to each other through Swapnote when I moved away to college. I’ve all but accepted that she now prefers to play games on her phone rather than her 3DS. Almost in desperation, I asked her one question to see if the little gamer girl I’ve raised up was still in there somewhere.”Have you heard of the Nintendo Switch?”
“Have you heard of the Nintendo Switch?”
“No,” she looked at me quizzically. “What’s that?”
There come’s a time in every big brother’s life when his siblings are old enough to start sharing his wisdom with them. If they’re a thoughtful brother, they might sit down with their siblings and tell them about having a positive self-image or the importance of doing well in school. As the caring and wise brother, double the age of the little girl sitting beside me at the kitchen table, I dared not pass up the opportunity to educate my dear sister on what may be the most innovative console ever attempted.
I started her off with the reveal trailer, the one that set the hype train in motion back in October.
I mostly stayed silent throughout the video only interjecting with important context. I told her about how Karen, the bowl cut wearing millennial from the trailer, has become an internet meme, for instance. Still, to Nintendo’s credit, the 3-minute welcome wagon did an excellent job of speaking for itself. By the end of the video, my sister had only one thing to say.
“I want one.”
An orchestra boomed as the world turned in slow motion. I hoisted her up above my head, spun in a circle, and gave her the biggest bear hug. The Wiimote slingin’, Mario Kart lovin’, 3DS carryin’ girl was still alive somewhere in that mobile free-to-play corrupted brain of hers.
She has a pink 3DS and my old Wii, but she hasn’t touched them in who knows how long. Yet something about this hybrid system, that can be used as both a traditional TV strapped console AND a portable handheld machine, struck a chord with her and she was just as starry-eyed as I was the first time I watched the trailer.
I showed her several other Switch videos including one for Snipperclips, a cooperative puzzle game I promised I would play with her when I got it. All at once, I began to see her fall in love with the idea of playing video games with an actual controller again and I could tell that she missed the hours spent sitting side-by-side working our way through video games together.
After her mind was blown, I made dinner while she sat at the kitchen table playing a new game on her phone. Gaming together in recent years has meant me downloading whatever new game she’s into and playing it on my own phone while sitting next to her. In this case, we shared her phone and took turns playing Rodeo Stampede. While fun, it’s not an ideal way to play video games with someone else. I think she realized that in the moment.
There is an inherent magic imbued in the Nintendo Switch. It’s ability to seamlessly switch from TV to handheld mode is a bigger development in my mind than virtual reality. Its shareable nature is perhaps its biggest strength and will undoubtedly be the reason why my sister’s generation will want it.
Take Minecraft, for instance. It is a gaming phenomenon that isn’t going away anytime soon. Kids will always find a way to play it whether its on their home computer, an Xbox 360, or an iPad. In most use cases, these are isolated experiences. Most kids are unable to play Minecraft with their friends online let alone together in the same room. Minecraft is coming to the Nintendo Switch, and it has two detachable controllers built into the system. So if a kid is out-and-about, they will have a second controller available to pass to a friend in a moment’s notice. That’s a powerful proposition for a generation who is conditioned to equate shares as a social currency.
As for my sister, I have half a mind to shell out the money to get her a Switch myself. The idea that I can purchase a separate (albeit expensive) dock and leave it connected at my childhood home whenever I visit is one that excites me. I stopped bringing my Wii U over because I hated lugging it around, and setting it up in my family’s entertainment system. Now all I would have to do is bring my compact Switch and slide it into the dock. My sister and I can now play video games side by side on the couch again like our glory days and there might be hope that my favorite girl still turns into a big ole’ nerd like me.