How Pikmin Bloom is Echoing Christian Servanthood
Yeah, you read that title right. We’re straight up talking about Pikmin and Jesus today and that is hilarious to me. Words cannot describe how much I love this church. If you aren’t on the bandwagon for Pikmin Bloom, I’m not too surprised. It’s a pretty obvious cash grab to re-vision the phenomenon that was Pokemon Go (which will never happen again). But there’s a distinct difference between Pokemon and Pikmin… and it’s not just their flower head appendages, cuz Chikorita. But we as Christians and just as plain old human beings can actually learn something about the way we serve others by the way that Pikmin serve us. Curious? Me too. Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and okay I understand these are vicious mushroom dogs and these are frogs but really what are these supposed to be? I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deepdives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
John 15:5-13 (NRSV)
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Okay - so a quick primer on Pikmin. It’s definitely not the *most* popular franchise in Nintendo history, but to those of us like myself who grew up on the Gamecube it was at the very least somewhat formative
Like, if nothing else, you rented this at the Movie Gallery or Blockbuster once or twice
But what is Pikmin and what is Pikmin Bloom?
Pikmin is a RTS or Real-Time Strategy and Puzzle video game created by the Shigeru Miyamoto himself in conjunction with Nintendo.
The first game released for the Gamecube back in 2001, spawning two major sequels and now two ancillary games.
The main game series in the franchise follows the adventures of a crash-landed alien species from the planet Hocotate exploring an unknown planet quite similar to Earth known as PNF-404.
The MC is tasked with repairing their spaceship to ensure survival on their journey back to their home planet. They must do this in a time limit, 30 days in the first game, before their oxygen runs out and they are stranded. The crash landed folks must survive the dangerous flora, fauna, and florafauna on the planet for long enough to gather the proper supplies.
Along the way, the captain will discover a mysterious plant-like creature that looks awfully similar to a food back on their home planet known as the pik pik carrot. Hence, the original Olimar names them Pikmin. Cool.
So what is Pikmin Bloom?
Well, twenty years after the release of the original Pikmin, Nintendo announced outta nowhere that they would be partnering up with famed AR creator Niantic to develop a game similar to Pokemon Go, but distinctly Pikmin flavored
Which I guess would technically be Pik Pik carrot flavored…?
Anyway, much like their out of nowhere announcement, the game itself was dropped out of nowhere in late October, early November 2021.
The game itself features the titular Pikmin, who are now grown by the amount of steps you take rather than the amount of time that passes in an in-game day. Your Pikmin walk alongside after they are grown and find pods containing more Pikmin seeds that you can plant, walk, and hatch - I mean grow. Definitely. Not. Hatch. (Togepi sound)
The game is genuinely a good time and, while it’s definitely not going to be a phenomenon like Pokemon Go was, it’s still just a plain ol’ good game and an opportunity to get to see my little Pik-friends again.
So please join our Discord and add me as a friend because it’s so hard to find people who are playing this game.
Anyway, the reason I am bringing up this game and why I think it’s relevant to our Christian walk is one of the features of the game.
As you work with your pikmin, sending them on journeys, having them walk with you, having them help plant flowers with you, etc etc, each thing that you do together builds up a heart meter of four stars - very harvest moon-esque really.
After you achieve four stars on the heart meter, your Pikmin comes to you specifically and is like, Hey, dude, we’re buds right? Would you mind if I ran home real quick and got a present?
And then they just straight up do - it doesn't matter how far away their seed pod that you picked up was, they will walk 500 miles just to be the man, to be the man that winds up at your door with that present.
As an aside, I’m going to San Diego from North Carolina this upcoming January and I am so excited to find some Pikmin, make them love me, and then send them across the entire United States to get me a present. I cannot wait.
And what is the present that they bring back? Oh it’s an outfit. The Pikmin run to their house to get their favorite pair of clothes and put them on so that they can be their true selves around you - boom, mic drop - all are welcome. Easy sermon.
Wait, no - there’s more to it than that and it’s about time that we get into our scripture.
In this passage from the gospel of John, we have Jesus breaking down how the disciples should relate to the world. First, they should stay connected in relationship with Jesus, second they should expect the world to hate them, third they should love them anyway.
The passage we’ve read in particular is typically just about the way that we should continue to relate to Jesus. This kicks off with one of the famous ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus where he explains that ‘I Am the Vine’ and the disciples are the branches.
All who remain in connection with the vine will bear fruit and be properly pruned to have offshoots and create more branches for more fruit.
Those that do not remain attached to the vine will die and fall away and be thrown in the fire pit in the backyard for kindling. It’s harsh, but it’s making it’s point.
Then Jesus moves that tough love and breaks down the real root (ha root) of the issue - God loves, Jesus loves, and that means that we should love. What does it look like to abide in the love of Jesus? It’s to offer that same love to others.
Jesus then makes it a bit more clear what he means and quotes some scripture: if you follow my commandments, then you will abide in my love. If you abide in my love, you will abide in God’s love.
Then I like to picture Jesus finishing the sentence and being like…. Mmmmmm they still didn’t hear me.
Then he breaks so transparently that he couldn’t be more clear: this is my commandment that I’m talking about, here’s the one, this is the one, this is the commandment, hey hey (snapping fingers to get attention) this is the commandment that I’m talking about here. Why are you? Why are you - stop turning to Leviticus - stop it. I’m giving it - the commandment is written here.
This is my commandment - love others as I have loved you. Full stop.
And then, my favorite verse and the one I would get tattooed - if I had any tattoos (dinkleberg meme) - greater love has no one than this, than one who would lay down his life for his friends.
Okay - so Jesus has been absolutely clear. How should we build our relationships?
We first keep a relationship strong with Jesus.
How do we keep that strong relationship?
By loving like Jesus loved.
How did Jesus love?
Jesus loved others by sacrificing for others out of love.
It’s an equation - it’s a direct cause and effect domino thing going on here. If we want to be branches on the vine, then we have to love one another because by loving one another, we are loving as Christ loved, and the act of loving as Christ loved is what keeps us in love with Christ. It’s like a circle. And we keep trying to square it, but Jesus is really very clear.
So what could this possibly have to do with Pikmin? And no, it’s not just that they are literal plants with leaves sticking out of their heads like vines and branches. But… if you quit playing, it could be about that.
In all seriousness, the truth presented in the weird relationship between the captain or your walking self in Bloom is that the Pikmin come to you by choice and listen to what you say by choice. They are super cute and innocent and we’re not going to talk about the abuse that they receive in the main games, but in the walking tracker version of the game you are literally over time building a relationship with the Pikmin by what? Acts of literal service.
It’s a Jesus sim. Maybe it’s Pikmin that should get the tattoo of John 15:13, they’re doing it way better than me.
The relationship between you and your Pikmin is evocative of the relationship between you and Christ, believe it or not. It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes service. We’re so afraid of that word in the church, but the reality is that the church is not a club, it’s a thing that we’re joining into, it’s a community that is agreeing to serve one another, not just be served.
That’s the whole idea behind our LVL2 program. We’re not asking you to lead a Bible Study or to go into the ministry, LVL2 is literally just a way of saying I’m actually in Checkpoint Church to serve, not to be served by the Checkpoint Community.
And then, after enough time is devoted to the relationship with the Pikmin, what happens? Uh, literal fruit - or sometimes a neat outfit. The Pikmin, after being cared for and mutually serving and being served, choose to go on a cross-country journey to bring you the fruit of your labor.
Idk maybe you think this is a stretch, but I legit can’t think of a better metaphor. This feels almost on the nose. I’ve never considered the journey of Pikmin in the mainline games to be a disciples journey, but add in those hearts and the presents - it’s just perfectly made.
So what does this mean for us today, right now?
Well, first off again add me in Pikmin Bloom over on the Discord server
But after you get done doing that, consider what it means to really serve someone. How can we better love those around us in the same way that Jesus would? It doesn’t actually mean doing laborious chores for them like the Pikmin do for us, but Jesus sat down at the table and ate with the sinners even if he had somewhere else to be. That’s called sacrificing time and it’s just one of the ways that we can learn from the sacrifices of Jesus.
The truth of Pikmin Bloom is that it teaches us about our most important thing that we can sacrifice - time. How are we spending our time building relationships? Are you spending all of the time you have alone or one thing that only edifies yourself? Those things are important, but we have to stay connected to the vine for true living water and sustenance. Jesus wasn’t a recluse. A weirdo? An outcast? Sure. But a recluse? No. Jesus was with others, loving others, sacrificing for others. And, if we want to love like Jesus, then we should be too.
And I personally can’t think of a place I’d much rather be than in a church specifically designed with nerds, geeks, and gamers in mind, so, for me, I’m sacrificing for Checkpoint every single day. And I invite you to do the same.
You’re always welcome at Checkpoint Church, whether you’re ready to serve or not. Red, yellow, blue, white, purple, pink or just a rock - all types of Pikmin are welcome in this place.
Bonus points if you bring pik pik carrots to the potlucks - those are Olimar’s favorite.
Question: Have you ever played a Pikmin game? What was your fave?
God loves you. We love you. You matter.
Until next time,