It’s been almost a month since Satoru Iwata’s sudden passing. I still think about it almost every day. The thought immediately following is usually some version of “That’s messed up.” It’s astounding, something that no one really saw coming. The way we found out. The sudden outpouring of emotion on social media. The fan art – all of this for a game company CEO. It was astonishing.
His illness wasn’t something looming on the horizon, as it had been with Steve Jobs. We, as fans of Nintendo, and even people working at Nintendo it seems, looked to the positive. I thought he had maybe recovered well from his ordeal last year that caused him to miss E3. Even once all the news outlets began to confirm July’s news, I felt like it still had to be an elaborate, sick joke.
If you follow me on Twitter, then you know well how I felt; seeing others pour their hearts out for the gamer-turned-CEO of the 100+ year old company only strengthened my emotions, even having seen Nintendo teased for its lack of conformity in the years under Iwata’s guidance. When I see what Nintendo has now, and the state of certain big-budget games outside of Nintendo, I feel I owe a lot of thanks to them, for all my time spent with my favorite video game consoles.
There are a lot of dark corners to gaming — even more if you’re a woman or a POC. This dark abyss of user input, even at the cost of a few conveniences, is mostly evaded in online Nintendo games. Even if sometimes a little silly, and even if their innovations don’t always hit off, the company’s maintained its integrity. And, as spoken in thoughts and eulogies since last month, Mr. Iwata had that integrity. It was a part of him. It was such that a family that had run the company since its inception felt confident in handing him the wheel.
This guy was more than a corporate suit. He made games — well. He influenced a whole generation with games that would’ve been radically different or possibly nonexistent otherwise.
That’s why he could be turned into a lovable Muppet-style puppet — he was a personable man, reaching out to his base, accessible, and memorable.
He was a genuinely likable man and an anticipated presence at the Nintendo Direct presentations. Fans like me would look forward to his delivery — and I especially respect anyone who’s good at communicating across barriers like space and language.
He regularly talked with developers and enjoyed every minute of it. This world of games was his forte, his raison d’être, his #1 priority.
Thank You, Mr. Iwata, for your dedication. May your efforts carry on.
PS, please buy this shirt in support of Child’s Play and cancer research and help honor his memory.