At first, I didn’t feel like going. My full-time job has been stressful. A mental and emotional drain, and that’s putting it mildly. As a result, I’ve been trying to relax as much as possible on the weekends, but our friends were hosting a gathering the other night, and I simply couldn’t ignore the invitation. There was going to be lots of good people, food, drink and yard games. Once the sun had set and the stars came out, we’d walk half-a-mile to the local park and enjoy a professional fireworks display. My son has never seen a real fireworks show in person, and I wanted to be there for his first experience. So, it was settled. I was going, and I was determined to have a good time.
At one point during the evening, I decided to peek at my Twitter feed… and that’s when I saw it: The President and CEO of Nintendo, Mr. Iwata, had passed away.
It was a punch to the gut.
Nintendo consoles played an integral part in my childhood. No joke, some of my fondest memories revolve around one of their machines or the other.
For example, after getting The Legend of Zelda for the NES, my grandmother decided to try it out. At first, it was amusing to see her glued to the television, thumbs twitching erratically. I never thought she’d ‘get it’ enough to progress, but to my surprise two weeks later, I walked in on her confrontation with Ganon. Not only did she beat the game… but she did it before ME. As I scraped my jaw off the floor, she vowed to never play another video game as long as she lived. “I can’t go through that again. It’s too addicting.” And she held true to her word.
But my grandmother never tried to stifle my enjoyment of video games. As a matter of fact, she would take me garage sale-ing nearly every week, and she ballooned my NES collection with a few quarters, or sometimes the occasional dollar.
There were also a couple of friends who lived around the corner, and we shared countless hours with the likes of Contra, Ducktales, and Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts. We played outside every chance we got, but when the rain fell – as it does so very often where I live – it was Nintendo time.
I also remember the emotions I felt beating certain games. Tossing Foot Soldiers at the screen in TMNT IV: Turtles In Time. Obtaining the Master Sword in A Link to the Past. Careening through mine shafts in Donkey Kong Country. Having my mind blown the first time I saw Super Mario 64 at a retail demo station. How said it was to leave the Kokiri forest in Ocarina of Time. And, of course, all the memorable music that’s literally stuck with me for decades.
Obviously, these memories alone can’t encapsulate how important the Nintendo brand has been to me, but I think you get the idea.
While it’s true Iwata wasn’t a part of the company during a large chunk of my cited time frame, his name (along with others, of course) HAS been synonymous with the brand for the last 15/16 years. Longer, if you want to consider his time developing Earthbound and a ton of Kirby gems. And DURING his time with Nintendo, he’s worked on Pokemon, Metroid Prime, Pikmin, The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, Star Fox, Eternal Darkness, and a host of Mario related titles. I’ve enjoyed most of these, as I’m sure many a Nintendo fan has.
This past year, I’ve come down on Nintendo for losing their way, but that doesn’t take away from all the games Iwata has been behind-the-scenes for, nor the fun they have provided, and will continue to provide for years to come. To have lost a figure in this industry which was responsible for so much timeless fun is nothing short of a tragedy, and I, for one, will miss his influence behind the games. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about: The games. With partial thanks to Mr. Iwata, Nintendo are still delivering on that front.
Rest in peace, Mr. Iwata. I, and a legion of gamers out there, will miss you.