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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thank You, Mr. Iwata



Life is not fair. This is something we've all been told numerous times throughout our existence. For all of the good things that there is to experience in life, there are many hardships. As human beings we can be strong but unfortunately, we are not invincible and this is something we are reminded of all too often in numerous ways. We get sick, we get hurt and unfortunately we can die. I like to think most of us would leave this world due to old age, but not all of us get to say our farewells to life that way. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, died at the age of 55 due to a bile duct. 55 may not be very young but that's not what I'd call over the hill either.

I was checking Instagram on Sunday after a rough night of work, and I see my feed flooded with pictures and tributes to the Nintendo legend and a read of the comments below the images fills me on the tragic news. Despite the fact that I didn't know the man personally, like many of you, I was still stunned by the news of his death. I don't think I need to say it but I will anyway: Just because you don't directly know someone, that doesn't mean they can't have an impact on your life or affect you in some way. Satoru Iwata managed to touch a lot of people even the throngs of those he never met.



What separated Iwata from so many suits in the business is that he was not just a man in snazzy wears. The man was a gamer. A gamer with an impressive background in developing games. Long before he took the role of President of Nintendo, he was a game developer. When Game Freak said they couldn't fit the Kanto region into Pokemon Gold/Silver, Iwata found a way to compress it so it could fit on the Game Boy cartridge. Shigesato Ito said that the whole development team of EarthBound (SNES) "relied' on Iwata due to his vast knowledge and experience. Iwata even helped Masahiro Sakurai co-develop the original Super Smash Bros. in their off time. As much credit as Sakurai gets for the Smash series, we probably wouldn't even have one of gaming's biggest crossover series if not for Iwata's help with the original game.

Balloon Fight has been one of my favorite NES games since I discovered it in the original GCN Animal Crossing way back in 2002. I loved that game so much that when I saw a physical copy for $3.99, I picked it up without hesitation. It wasn't until after Iwata's death that I found out that he was the man that programmed Balloon Fight. The way the Balloon Fighter moves, the waving of his arms, that scary fish that can eat you whole, that was all Iwata.

It wasn't just Iwata's background in game design that made him so renowned. Iwata was genuinely a warm, welcoming, friendly person. That isn't something one would expect from a person in his position. The Nintendo Directs were his way of reaching out directly to the gamers. He wasn't afraid to be a goofball and more often than not, you saw him smiling. That isn't to say every decision Iwata made was perfect. I'm not even gonna try to make you think that I know all of the ins and outs of corporate decision making because I certainly don't. There are many out there that disagreed with his actions, but even those that did wished him no ill will. Iwata was such an upstanding human being that it made him difficult to hate. You can't say that for too many other gaming personalities.

Yes, it is sad to see Satoru Iwata go, but thanks to his many wonderful contributions to gaming, the man will always live on. Honor his memory by playing a game he had a hand in. I know I'll always think of him now that I know he was a key player in Balloon Fight. Thank you, Mr. Iwata. You're definitely going to be missed.


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