The Nintendo secret

Here’s a trivia question for you. What year was the video game company, Nintendo, established? Are you guessing the 1970s? The 1980s? Sometime in that range? Or maybe you’re going to go out on a limb and guess the 1950s because that was right around the start of the computer revolution. Well, the truth is that Nintendo was formed on Sept. 23,1889. For everyone who has grown up with video games, I can hear the wheels in your head screeching to a halt. You’re screaming, wait a minute, how could Nintendo possibly be almost 100 years older than Donkey Kong (1981), their revolutionary video game that ushered in the Golden Age of video arcade games?

The answer to that question is that Nintendo was originally a playing card company. The reason Nintendo is not only alive and well, but also the third most valuable company in Japan, is because somewhere along the line they had a tiny little shift in their thinking. It might not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but the end result was momentous. That tiny little shift in thinking was that they stopped thinking about themselves as a card company and started to think of themselves as an entertainment company. If Nintendo hadn’t made that shift in thinking, then they probably wouldn’t be around today. And even if they were still in business as a playing card company, they certainly would only be a shadow of what they have become.

Even after the shift in thinking, Nintendo continued to make cards for a while. However, thinking of themselves as an entertainment company allowed them to move into other things while still making cards. It allowed them to delve into various toy lines, then into electronics and finally, into video games.

Nintendo makes me wonder, how do we (The Episcopal Church) think of ourselves? Do we think of ourselves as “just a playing card company”? The problem with thinking about yourself as a playing card company is that it narrowly defines you by what you make and doesn’t reflect who you really are. The Church is often guilty of defining itself by what it makes instead of who it is. We do many things well, to be sure. Yet, we need to move beyond the liturgy and the meetings and the outreach and all of the other things we do really well and think about defining who we are. Who are we? Who would we want to be if there were absolutely no barriers in our way? This tiny little shift in thinking could make all of the difference when it comes to not just surviving, but thriving in the centuries to come.

David Dreisbach serves as communications director for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact him at