No Crying Until the End
“I can’t stand losing visionary father-like figures” a tweet from a friend said. “Yeah, I can’t either” I thought to myself, trying to rationalize the news that Satoru Iwata had passed.
Video games as an entertainment platform, as an artist medium, as a part of the world, are still very much in their infancy. And yet, it’s old enough to have creators who’ve got 30+ years of experience under their belts, entering old age and commenting on how “back in my day, 3D was all red!” Unfortunately, Iwata didn’t get to live to those golden years.
It’s a little weird, to be this upset by the passing of someone I’ve never even stood in the same room with. But then again, Iwata transcended the feeling that he was a stranger to many people. He seemed genuinely warm and caring, always apologizing to his audience when things went wrong, and always ready to give them his all when he could. He wasn’t just some money chasing CEO, he was one of us. He said it himself, in his heart he was always a gamer. Always knowing why we liked what we did, what we wanted more and less of, understanding the joys and frustrations that we as gamers would experience. He “got” us, and tried his best to not let us down. Our joy was his triumph, our anger and sadness his personal failure.
A programmer unparalleled in his time, mine, and possibly any other, he helped give birth to my beloved Kirby, saved Earthbound, optimized Pokemon Gold and Silver so good he ended up fitting the Kanto region on the cartridge as well, and more. He oversaw Nintendo through it’s most insane profits, and was doing his best to weather it’s lowest lows. He willingly took a pay cut to keep morale high for his employees rather than firing them. He knew the importance of getting non-gamers to play games, if only so they wouldn’t view video games in a negative light. He understood that there was more to advancing video games than just prettier graphics. He led Nintendo into new, risky territory, and while not all those bets paid off, the industry is better for it. His Iwata Asks and Nintendo Directs linked him directly to his customers, with a childlike glee unseen in other major companies’ leaders. He believed games should be fun for everyone, regardless of who they were. Even in illness, he tried his best to make everything seem okay until the end.
No crying until the end, an Earthbound/Mother 2 ad told us. I guess it’s okay to cry now. We’ve lost a wonderful man, a powerful and respected man who never seem to cheat or wrong us, even when we disagreed with what he was doing. Fans, people he worked with, and even friendly business rivals have poured out their hearts in respect and honor in the wake of his passing. I don’t know if we’ll ever have another leader like him. And maybe video games will be a little less bright because of it.
Rest in peace, Satoru Iwata.