Satoru Iwata (1959 – 2015)

Kirby's_Adventure_CoverartI don’t remember what year it was, but it had to be around 1993. The world had started moving onto the Super Nintendo, but my family remained at the NES. We would eventually buy a SNES — a store model demo from a Shopko in North Platte, Nebraska — but, at the moment, I was still tapping away at the NES library that’s new releases were slowly starting to dwindle down. It was in this culture that I found Kirby’s Adventure.

I was only 11 when the game came out. I knew nothing about video game developers. I didn’t know any by name — except perhaps Sid Meier, but that’s because that guy knew how to brand himself. And I certainly didn’t know any Japanese game developers. I knew that most games came from Japan, and I knew that games had to be programmed by someone. But, when the credits rolled, the names that scrolled were just that: names. When I played Kirby’s Adventure, I had no idea who Satoru Iwata was, but this particular game sticks out in my mind.

I rented the game on a Monday. That night, or the next, my parents had friends over. My father was a pastor, so they were always having friends over. Video games have always served me as an escape from life. That night, they served me as an escape from awkward social situations. Since this particular group didn’t have any kids my age, I spent the whole evening alone in the basement playing Kirby’s Adventure. I played the entire game in one sitting, passing level after level after level, until I reached the end. The basement had garden-level windows, and when the credits rolled, I was shocked to see the sun had gone down, and the sky outside was dark. I don’t remember what time it actually was, but I know that the rest of the house had gone to sleep, and I was still awake. I had lost myself in the game, and before I knew it, time had passed. It was one of the first games that grabbed me in this way, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

Satoru Iwata started work with Hal Labratory in the late 1980s. He worked with Nintendo for almost as long as I’ve played their games. He’s had a hand in many games that have served as escapes over the years. Most people will mention Earthbound, and with good reason. Earthbound is one of the bigger games that Iwata worked on. Others might mention Super Smash Bros., which was one of Hal Labratory’s most popular games.

When Iwata became Nintendo’s president in 2003, he began a long legacy of some of Nintendo’s highest successes, like the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo 3DS. From what people have said about him, he was one of the nicest guys in the world. I’ve seen interviews with him, and he always seemed like a genuine guy. He once said: “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” And I love that quote.

This all feels very rambly, and that’s because I just found out about this, and I’m not sure what to say. So, I’ll leave you with this: Thank you, Mr. Iwata, for your service to the industry. You were taken from us far too young, and you will be missed.

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